Jersey’s Kimble finds new life at EIU after Syracuse

CHARLESTON – Mitch Kimble’s footballing journey has taken a few turns along the way. He was part of the great era and he was part of the life of the Mississippi Valley Conference.

And he said he was the happiest he had been to where his journey took him – Eastern Illinois University. After two years at Syracuse, Kimble transferred to EIU in the spring of 2015, but missed last season due to injury. But he’s back in force for the Panthers. He started the first three games first and led EIU’s wins in two of those games.

But Kimble suffered a concussion in EIU’s 24-1 win over Illinois State and missed the next two games. He said he was cleared and ready to play in Saturday’s O’Brien Field game against Tennessee State.

“I’m ready to go now,” Kimble said Wednesday. “Allowed to go and feel good. “

It’s been three long years for the former Jersey Panther and the concussion could be another obstacle. But it is not yet known if Kimble will start on Saturday. Either way, the former Jersey Panther is happy to be in Charleston.

“It’s a good fit,” Kimble said. “I’m happy to be here.”

Kimble, a 2013 Jersey High graduate, was a highly recruited flagger as a prepster. And after listening to all the offers, he accepted a scholarship for Syracuse.

Syracuse, the school that produced Jim Brown. This Syracuse.

Kimble was an Orangeman for two seasons and enjoyed limited action. After being redshirted the 2013 season, he played three games in 2014 as a rookie and devoted a lot of time to the Orangemen’s game against Duke.

But he was fourth in the depths standings as a quarterback and knew that in order to get the playing time he wanted he would probably have to transfer.

“I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted,” Kimble said, “and I wanted to be closer to home.”

So, after a second academic research in two years, Kimble chose EIU, who had been one of its first courtiers.

“I liked Syracuse,” Kimble said. “The atmosphere at the games was so cool and it’s a great school.

“Deciding to transfer was a big decision, but I wanted to play. I wanted to go to an FCS school, so I wouldn’t have to be away for a year.

EIU has produced its share of NFL players, including Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo. This reputation was important in Kimble’s decision.

“The tradition of football here is excellent. I would be lying if I said playing in the NFL wasn’t a dream, ”Kimble said. “It was one of the deciding factors.

“But just getting back on the pitch, helping the team and getting my diploma is the most important.”

With a degree in kinesiology and athletic studies, Kimble is on track to graduate after the 2017 fall semester – which would be right after his senior season.

While he was hoping to play for the EIU in 2015, a back injury suffered in weightlifting in his freshman year at Syracuse kept him from playing last season.

Kimble had previously worn a red shirt this freshman year at Syracuse, so he took time off last season to attend class.

“I had a bulging disc on my back,” Kimble said.

After an operation in Indianapolis to repair his back, Kimble went back to work to prepare for the 2016 season. He underwent intensive physiotherapy rehabilitation. he was still limited in spring training, but by the time the preseason practices arrived, Kimble was back, rested and ready to compete for the starting position.

It started in EIU’s 38-21 season opener loss to Western Illinois. The following week, he led the Panthers to two touchdowns in the final four minutes in a 21-17 over Miami from Ohio. His efforts earned him the honors of the Ohio Valley Player of the Week.

“It was good to be back on the pitch,” Kimble said. “I was hoping things would continue.”

The following week, EIU beat rival Illinois State at Normal for the first time since 2008. Kimble was 10 of 21 for 108 yards and two touchdowns before coming out after a sack in the second half. Alternate quarterback Austin Green came off the bench and helped the Panthers maintain their lead.

Green is also a junior redshirt. The former Rochester star was 24 of 30 for 263 yards in Eastern’s 56-35 win over Austin Peay in their Ohio Valley Conference opener.

“I’m really happy to be here,” Kimble said. “It’s closer to my home so my family can come and watch me play more. It’s a great school and the tradition of football is great.

“It’s a good shot.”

Contact Pete Hayes at 463-2500 or Twitter @HayeserPete

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