Sonny Mitchell knows what it means to run back at number 34 for the Miami Dolphins.
As he was growing up in South Florida, one day developing into American heritage to become a five-star high school recruit, it was Ricky Williams posting the two highest single-season running totals in Dolphins history in 2002 ( Franchise-record 1,853 yards) and 2003 (1,372).
“Everybody knows it’s a big number,” Mitchell said in his first interview with his hometown team after the team activities session held on Tuesday. “Ricky Williams hit the ball here and scored a lot of runs. I can’t rock it just for the sake of it. I have to come out of here and do some work.”
Mitchell, 27, who signed with the Dolphins last week, may have been just 7 years old when Williams set that franchise mark. He said he never had any Williams memorabilia at that young age, but he had a Miami trail running through the years, after which Ronnie Brown and Reggie Bush grew up on his wall. Williams, who infamously retired for the first time before the 2004 season, later returned to the team with the Browns in the Dolphins’ backfield, most notably the start of the Wildcat offense in the 2008 season and Miami’s final AFC East Division title. highlighted.
Whatever his inspiration was then or now, Mitchell evolved through a storied high school career into an eventual NFL tailback that saw him burst onto the local scene as an eighth grader ahead of his time in Georgia.
“It was a process for me,” Mitchell said of last taking football for the South Florida team by this time. “It was the move to go to college, and when I was in the process of college, it became an idea or a potential idea to play for the Dolphins.
“It was a dream, an aspiration. I didn’t know how much it would come true, but we’re here and I’m excited. Words really can’t describe it.”
Now, Mitchell will be part of a crowdfunding committee in the backfield of the Dolphins, one of four tailbacks able to start for an NFL team. Miami signed fellow running backs Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostart in March. The Dolphins retained Miles Gaskin, who has started 17 games over the past two seasons for the franchise.
“A lot of great runners,” Mitchell said. “My whole point is, if you want to be a good runner, you have to compete with great runners. That’s one of the reasons I’m here.”
New Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel is used to the many backs he can produce from his experience leading the San Francisco 49ers’ touted run game in the years before becoming offensive coordinator in 2021.
“Competition is only a good thing for the Miami Dolphins,” McDaniel said. “You have the opportunity to add a player of his caliber, his pedigree, a multiple Super Bowl winner, we jumped at the opportunity.”
What stands out about Mitchell, relative to the others, is that he can be a physical, middle-of-the-ball carrier at 5-11,215 pounds. Mostart (5-10, 205) is highly praised for his quick pace, and Edmonds (5-9, 210) is a dynamic back who is also excellent at catching the ball out of the backfield. The Gaskin is listed at £194.
Mitchell’s journey out of college marked the first time he was drafted by the New England Patriots as a first-round pick in 2018. There, he found immediate success, winning the Super Bowl as a rookie and running for 336 yards and six touchdowns in the Patriots’ three playoff victories. Earlier that season, Mitchell made his first 100-yard run attempt in a Week 4 win against the Dolphins, going 3–0.
Traded to the Los Angeles Rams before last season, he won his second Super Bowl.
“Just working my head down,” he said of what he can bring to the Dolphins from the championship experience. “I guess that’s all I know. I think I’ll continue to do just that – and earn the trust of my teammates.”
It is fitting that Mitchell returned to South Florida with a championship mindset. As a senior at American Heritage in the fall 2013 season, he led the school to its first state football championship. Heritage has since won four more – three of them with former Dolphins cornerback and current defensive assistant Patrick Suren as the school’s head coach. Sartain was in his first year as an assistant at the school when Mitchell was a senior.