Joe Mixon has established himself as one of the NFL’s premier running backs.
He finished the 2021 NFL regular season with the third-most rushing yards (1,205), the fourth-most rushing touchdowns (13), and took the third-most carries (292). In his four seasons with Cincinnati, he has rushed for 4,564 yards on 1,104 carries with 33 touchdowns on the ground. He’s also caught 171 passes for 1,322 yards and eight touchdowns.
Despite his success, there were many who didn’t want him in the NFL to begin with. Mixon left Oklahoma with several notable off-field issues, including the assault of a woman in 2014 and the intimidation of a parking attendant in 2016, both of which led to suspensions while he was with the Sooners.
While some teams refused to even consider drafting him, the Bengals took him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft and haven’t looked back, signing him to a four-year, $48 million extension in 2020 to keep him in Cincinnati.
Below is an overview of the assault charge Mixon faced early before he arrived at Oklahoma and all that led up to his selection to be a Bengal.
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Joe Mixon assault before college
Coming out of high school, Joe Mixon was the star of Oklahoma’s 2014 recruiting class. 247Sports’ Composite Rankings listed the Oakley, CA product as the No. 19 national prospect and the No. 1 all-purpose running back in the nation.
The summer before Mixon arrived on campus, Mixon was charged with misdemeanor assault after he was accused of punching a woman, OU student Amelia Molitor, during an argument on July 25. Molitor was knocked unconscious and fractured four bones in her face. She needed reconsructive surgery as a result of the incident. Mixon was arraigned in August on the charges.
According to ESPN, Mixon told police that one of Molitor’s friends used a racial slur — Mixon admitted he responded back with an anti-gay slur. Molitor told police that she and her friend, who is gay, were being harassed by Mixon and other Oklahoma teammates. She told police that she and her friend went into a sandwich shop to try and avoid Mixon.
Video of the incident, which wasn’t released to the public until December 2016, showed Mixon approaching Molitor at a table, and after he walked away, Molitor pushed him. Mixon then lunged at her — Molitor responded by slapping him on the left side of his neck. Mixon then punched her with his right hand, knocking her into the table and down onto the floor. Mixon left the scene after the punch. Molitor was eventually able to stagger up from the floor to sit in a chair as police were called.
Oklahoma suspended Mixon for the entire season on Aug. 18.
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Mixon, who had just turned 18 the day before the incident, entered an Alford plea and had to perform 100 hours of community service and undergo counseling.
Mixon was reinstated after the season, and went on to have two standout seasons for Oklahoma. In 2015, he rushed 113 times for 753 yards with seven touchdowns. The next year, he took 187 carries 1,274 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Over the two seasons, he combined to catch 65 passes for 894 yards and nine more scores.
Then-Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops later admitted after the video was made public in 2016 that while he believed the punishment was strict enough at the time, upon reflection, the punishment should have been dismissal from the school.
“These individuals can’t have a second chance,” he said. “Just not acceptable.”
“A young guy having an opportunity to rehabilitate and to have some kind of discipline and come back from it is really not there anymore. Hopefully that message goes down even to the high school level that these things are just unacceptable to any degree and there’s no recovering, I guess … it never has been acceptable. What I’m saying is, there’s no recovering from these incidents really anymore.”
Surveillance video of the incident, which had been previously withheld by the city of Norman, OK, was released to the public by Mixon’s attorney, along with a second angle of the incident.
A a ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court would have compelled the city of Norman to release the footage, though Mixon’s attorney, Blake Johnson, wrote in a statement that Mixon “does not see any reason for the release of the recording at issue in that lawsuit to be delayed any longer. Further delay appears only to be generating unfounded speculation about what is shown in that video.”
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Mixon also apologized publicly following the video release, asking for Molitor’s forgiveness while saying he let a lot of people down.
“It really doesn’t matter what she did, it’s all on me,” Mixon said. “I take full responsibility for what I did. It’s never OK to hit a woman. I would preach that to anybody. Hopefully people around the world learn from my mistake.”
Ben Baker, Molitor’s attorney, responded, saying Molitor acknowledged the apology, statements and responsibility taken by Mixon for the incident.
“We are optimistic that today’s events will help in the process of obtaining closure for those involved and, ultimately, in the resolution of all other matters related to that night,” Baker wrote in the statement.
A civil lawsuit between Molitor and Mixon was settled out of court, according to NFL.com.
Molitor said in a statement to NFL.com that she was happy to be able to end the lawsuit and said she and Mixon met privately without attorneys to discuss the incident. She said they would put the incident behind them was finished talking about the matter.
“I greatly appreciate his apology and I think the feelings he expressed were sincere. We both could have handled things differently. I believe if we had a chance to go back to that moment in time, the situation would not have ended the way it did,” Molitor said.
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Joe Mixon intimidation of parking attendant
That wasn’t Mixon’s only off-field issue before he left Oklahoma.
In November 2016, he was issued a parking citation and responded by tearing it up in the face of the parking attendant, according to OU Daily.
Oklahoma’s News 4 reported that after Mixon was issued the ticket, he got in his vehicle and drove up at the officer as he attempted to intimidate the officer with his car.
For the incident, Mixon was suspended for Oklahoma’s Nov. 3, 2016, matchup against Iowa State. In the announcement of the suspension by the team, Mixon apologized for the altercation.
“I regret that I did not respond appropriately to parking attendants and understand and accept the consequences,” Mixon said.
Joe Mixon in the NFL Draft
Heading into the Draft, Mixon was deemed untouchable by several teams.
The Dolphins, Patriots and Ravens were all out on Mixon despite scouts projecting him — talent-wise — as one of the top running backs in the draft class. Mixon wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine and was limited to participation only in the Sooners’ Pro Day to show his skills off to prospective teams.
There were still several teams that maintained interest in Mixon, however, including most prominently the Bengals. The team has been known over the years to give second chances to players, including Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict.
In the end, Mixon did not fall far. Projected originally as a first rounder based on talent, Mixon fell only to the top of the second round, as Cincinnati took him with the 48th overall pick in the draft.
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The pick was met with widespread criticism. Team owner Mike Brown defended the pick in an op-ed with the Cincinnati Enquirer, calling what Mixon did as a freshman a “terrible thing” and said it is “unacceptable for a man to strike a woman,” though with the caveat that “the circumstances that led up to the incident are unclear.” Brown said that Mixon went on to “become a good citizen in Norman, a popular teammate, a player respected by his coaches, and one of the most talented players in college football.” He said the team was taking a risk in drafting Mixon with upside and downside.
“We believe Joe has put this behind him and that he can turn into the player and community member that creates a plus for Cincinnati,” Brown wrote. “We are going to do everything in our power to make this happen. Our hope is that time will prove that this opportunity is deserved, and perhaps – if given a chance – Joe can write a chapter in Cincinnati sports history that both he and Cincinnati can be proud of.”
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