After arriving at his new school two years ago, Lincoln Riley scrambled for offensive weapons.
One of the Oklahoma Sooners’ best players had left the team a few weeks earlier. Running back Joe Mixon had been suspended for a year after punching a woman in the face at a Norman restaurant.
Mixon was charged with a misdemeanor assault charge, and reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that allowed him to avoid jail time.
“It’s a tough subject for us, too,” Riley said Thursday on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” show. “You look at it from two points of view. What he did was terrible. It was a terrible mistake and it’s not condoned by anybody.”
After his suspension, Mixon developed into a key component of the Sooners’ Big 12 title team last season. He rushed for a team-high 1,274 yards and caught 37 passes for 538 yards.
Joe Mixon changed after his suspension
In comments transcribed by the Tulsa World’s Eric Bailey, Riley believes Mixon learned his lesson.
“You also get to know the person away from it. When I got there, it was six months after it happened. I got to see a guy who, honestly, was one of the most caring, compassionate players that I’ve been around,” Riley said.
“He was a great team guy … always had a smile on his face. He was incredibly unselfish. You are kind of torn on that subject. You hate that it happened, but he was given a second chance and I’m proud of the way that he’s handled his second chance.”
Mixon was selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Riley said he doesn’t know how he would handle a similar situation.
“I think you have to look at each individual one,” he said. “Is the situation bad enough that you aren’t able to bring that back and not rehabilitate them? What’s the individual like?
“It’s hard to sit there and say if that same exact situation happened, how would we handle it? But hopefully, we can find some balance in that.”