Nov. 16, 2000
LOS ANGELES - Hollywood and Freddie Mitchell have turned out to be a perfect match. And the relationship has only just begun.
Deciding he didn't want to be like other standout athletes in Florida, Mitchell ventured west after a recruiting visit to UCLA four years ago, a visit he now admits he made mainly because he had one left.
A standout wide receiver, Mitchell visited Florida, Florida State and Miami. Then came his trip to California.
"I got here, it was like, 'Wow, this is the land of opportunity.' I knew coming here I'd meet a lot of people," he said. "It's been everything and more, as far as setting up my life after football.
"I'd love to be on TV, broadcasting, maybe acting. I've acted before."
Now, there's even the possibility of pro football for Mitchell.
After sitting out a year, Mitchell's freshman season was cut short by a broken leg after a spectacular debut in the opener against Texas.
Then, hampered by several nagging injuries and playing with inexperienced quarterbacks on a 4-7 team, he caught 38 passes for 533 yards and no touchdowns in 1999.
It's been a different story this season with Mitchell snaring 64 passes for 1,174 yards and seven TDs entering Saturday's regular-season finale against crosstown rival Southern California. He ranks second in the country in receiving yards per game.
"Freddie's having an All-American type season," UCLA coach Bob Toledo said. "He believes every ball should go to him, and he might be right. He's a playmaker. And he's a guy who likes to have fun."
Mitchell, who turns 22 later this month, is definitely enjoying himself. He pals around with some actors and actresses, has made cameo roles on several television shows and movies, and appeared on the "Tonight Show," speaking with Jay Leno on campus.
Oh, and there was the party at the Playboy Mansion he attended as an invited guest.
"One of my girlfriends called me up and asked me if I wanted to go," he said with a smile. "It was all right."
People definitely seem to gravitate in Mitchell's direction.
"He's very personable," UCLA quarterback Cory Paus said.
"He's Florida-style, he's wild, people from there have a different style to them," said Brian Poli-Dixon, the Bruins' other starting wide receiver. "He's loud, charismatic, gets along with people. He's one of my best friends."
Above all else at this point, though, Mitchell is a football player who takes his sport seriously.
"During the season, I don't go out at all, turn down a lot of stuff," he said. "This summer, I didn't go out, I was getting up at 5:30, working out. It's paid off tremendously."
Mitchell hasn't decided if he'll use his remaining year of eligibility at UCLA or make himself eligible for the NFL draft.
"I wouldn't mind winning a national championship next year," he said. "I'm leaning to staying, but nothing's firm. Next year, we should be unbelievable."
Right now, Mitchell has other things on his mind, mainly Saturday's game against USC at the Rose Bowl. The Trojans (4-6, 1-6 Pac-10) beat UCLA (6-4, 3-4) last season to snap an eight-game losing streak to the Bruins.
"I made a purpose to stand out there and see them celebrate last year," Mitchell said. "It's a rivalry. They can be 0-10, they'll be ready. They're going to play like they're No. 1 in the country. I think it's going to go down to the wire."
By JOHN NADEL
AP Sports Writer