A Letter to My Daughter

Courtesy Mitchell Family

Dear Icylinn (aka Twin Twin),

It’ll probably be a few years before you can actually read this. Right now all you really care about is Trolls and the kitchen set I got you for Christmas. Especially the kitchen set, it feels like every interaction we’ve had since then has been like:

What you cooking, Ice?

A carrot!


You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me and my reason for everything I do.

So I’m writing you this letter because I wanted to share some news that’s going to change both of our lives: Today, I’m officially declaring for the NFL Draft. 

In my heart, I always knew I wanted to be a professional athlete when I grew up. Playing sports just made me happier than anything else. Our house had the only basketball hoop in the neighborhood, so growing up I’d play with your uncles outside constantly. In my mind, we were all going to play in the NBA together one day. Easy.

There was only one issue: I wasn’t good. 

Like there are a lot of qualities I hope you get from me, but my jump shot isn’t one.

Football though? That was a different story. 

Even when I was playing against my brothers’ much older friends, I was nice. Juking, diving, and muscling out bigger kids for jump balls was no problem for me. By the time I started playing against kids my age I just started balling out right away. And before long football became the thing I was known for. 

I moved around schools a lot growing up — like, four different middle schools alone — so it was always on me to adjust to new people and surroundings. It was tough at times, but football gave me a sense of identity and a goal. 

I was a quarterback for a few years but in my junior year of high school I made the switch to receiver. I think your grandparents are still a little heartbroken over the move deep down (“Please don’t quit, AD! You’re the best quarterback to ever do it!”)  but yeah, I think it was for the best. 

The college offers were slow to come at first because I was new to the position, but by the end of senior year, I had my pick between some of the best schools in the country. 

Ultimately there was one place that stood out. A place where they taught the game better than anywhere else. And a place that would ultimately change my life forever. 

It was Georgia. 

Ronald Martinez/Getty

I wasn’t a five-star recruit, but when I arrived at UGA it seemed like just about everyone else was. So while I arrived on campus confident in myself and my abilities, I was also realistic. Because I knew I was really good, but I wasn’t perfect. 

How did I get better? 

The guys I had to battle in practice every single day. Facing future NFL players every single rep. There were no freebies, ever.  If you hit one of them with a two-step on one rep, that move was done. They would lock it down. You were forced to always evolve your game to get open. It was one of those intense practices where I got to see what it meant to be a national championship-level program. 

And that all started with Coach Kirby, man. That guy is one of one

Ezra Shaw/Getty

Being a player at UGA felt like being part of a family. Because for Coach Kirby, as a former player who lived for the program, this was all personal. And his passion for football, Georgia, food, life — everything — is just so magnetic.

He’s also probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Like, away from football, there aren’t many humans who are more enjoyable to just hang out with than Coach Kirby. 

But I want to reiterate that I’m talking about away from football.

The moment Coach Kirby put on his red visor, I knew I was dealing with a different person entirely. When the red visor came on it was all competition, energy, and above all, winning. Everything was about winning. 

So when you start school you might find that some teachers have this special superpower that gives them the ability to call on a student the second it seems like they’re not paying attention.

That was Coach Kirby at practice. 

The main difference is he always had a megaphone on him to call you out. And if you were messing up, the man would call you out, every single time. I still don’t even understand how. We’d have four scrimmages going on four different fields, he’d be way over on Field 3 while I’m on Field 1, and the moment I messed something up I’d hear Coach Kirby screeching over that megaphone:

“AD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! That was TERRIBLE! Give him another rep, Coach! He’s tired! HE IS TIRED!”

And it was like that for every practice, every play. He’d be on that megaphone, not letting us ease up. Not letting us give anything but our very best. What eventually became clear is that by holding us accountable and making us maintain the same standard for every moment, when the really big moments came, we were prepared to be at our best.

A funny thing about the touchdown catch I made in the fourth quarter against Ohio State in 2022 is that it was so unexpected, that I didn’t know how to celebrate. You can see me there, just kind of awkward standing there, not sure what to do with my hands. I didn’t even know the touchdown allowed us to take the lead because the game was so crazy. Coach Kirby had us entirely locked in and focused on executing each individual play, and not worrying about anything else. 

Of course, winning the national championship my freshman year is something I’ll never forget. But it turned out something even more special would happen that same year: You were born. 

Courtesy University of Georgia

When you came into my life, everything changed. Everything. 

I was never someone who liked being around babies. If anyone ever brought one over to the house, I’d be outside right away. But the moment you were born, there was nothing else I wanted to do other than be around you. So by far, the hardest part of being a new dad was the time I wasn’t there. Even though I knew you were being well taken care of in Texas, being away from you felt like a piece of me was missing. 

I loved my life at Georgia. I was getting better. We’d just won the national championship. We were about to win another one. What else could you want?

It was when I got injured my sophomore year and for the first time I actually couldn’t play football that things became more clear to me. I’d spent so much time away from you that, whenever I visited, it would feel like we were starting over from scratch. Whenever I picked you up, you’d cry at first because you didn’t recognize me — we didn’t really have a relationship. And that just made my heart sad.

I was making incredible memories at UGA, but it was hard to appreciate them fully because of the memories I knew I was missing out on at home. Even though I’d moved around from place to place my whole life, I’d never really felt lonely until I wasn’t around you.

So that’s why I decided to move back to Texas.

All I knew about the University of Texas growing up was Vince Young. I think for most kids my age, that was their last big memory of Texas football being great, so it wasn’t a school I really paid much attention to. 

Tim Warner/Getty

But when I started looking at programs closer to home, Texas just checked off every box.

Great quarterback? Check. 

Huge, experienced offensive line? Check.

Receiving & running back room? Check.

That’ll work. 

And then of course there’s the great Coach Sark. 

Similar to Coach Kirby, the entire program took on his personality and sense of confidence. He was only in his third year but it was easy to tell that every guy in the program was bought in. 

So I think that what stood out to me about Texas as much as anything else was how familiar it felt. I’d seen what it takes to win a national championship, and that was clearly what this team was built to do. As soon as I visited, I knew Austin was where I wanted to finish my college career. (I mean, even for the food alone. I’m gonna need a Rolling Rooster to open wherever I get drafted, for real.) 

At a place like Texas, the noise from the outside is always going to be loud. There were a ton of doubters before the season. But I don’t think anybody inside the program is surprised at how good we ended up being. It was pretty easy to see from early on that what Sark was building in Austin was special.

While I’m still feeling heartbroken about how the year ended, a bigger part of me is filled with pride. 

Winning at Bama? First Texas team to make the playoff? Leaving the Big 12 with a trophy on the way out? 

That’s special, man. That’s really special. I’m blessed to have been part of it.

But by far the thing I’m most grateful for about this past year is our time together. Being able to see you grow and learn. Seeing how much we have in common. Leaving UGA was probably the toughest decision of my life, but I know it was the right one because of the special bond we share today. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Courtesy University of Georgia

I’m grateful to Coach Sark and all of the University of Texas community for making me feel like a Longhorn for life in such a short time. And you aren’t quite done with me yet, 'cause I’m coming back to get that degree. 

And to all the Bulldog fans, my amazing coaches, my brothers on the field, the legendary 2021 class — we did that. We made history together. I love all of y’all. 

This is a time in my life I’m always going to treasure. Honestly, thinking about all the places I’ve been and things I’ve gotten to do is almost overwhelming. I’m just so grateful for it all. 

And now, I’m most excited about what’s next — for both of us.