In 2005, Mitchell Stewart Mustain led Springdale High School to a perfect 14-0 record and won the Arkansas Class 5A state title, defeating three nationally ranked opponents in the process. In a magical senior campaign, Mustain threw for nearly 4,000 yards and set a state single season record with 47 touchdowns garnering him consensus national Player of the Year honors and an inventory of hardware similar in size to that of a Home Depot.
The handsome prodigy was ordained “Football’s Future” by USA Today, and Razorback fans across the Natural State had visions of BCS crystal balls dancing in their heads when they realized that the future of the game was going to be cultivated in their own back yard, as Mustain chose to attend nearby Arkansas, spurning the pursuits made by every national power.
At Arkansas, Mustain saw action immediately. As a true freshman he replaced starter Robert Johnson in the late stages of an eventual 50-14 loss to the USC Trojans and instantly guided the Razorbacks on an impressive 80-yard touchdown drive, sending the remaining Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium crowd into frenzy and Robert Johnson to a totally different position on the depth chart (WR).
The future had arrived.
Following eight consecutive victories, including back-to-back wins over No. 22 Alabama and No. 3 Auburn on the road, the outlook was very encouraging for the kid with the golden arm and Razorback Nation.
However, following an intercepted pass on his first attempt in a game at South Carolina, Mustain was inexplicably removed from the game in favor of Casey Dick, a sophomore who had been injured prior to the start of the season. With this impetuous decision came the permanent benching of Mustain and the curtains had subsequently been drawn on a once promising career at Arkansas.
In 2007, Mustain would transfer and enroll at the University of Southern California, joining former high school and Arkansas teammate Damien Williams, who had hightailed it out of Fayetteville the previous January over concerns about his future role in the run-oriented offense preferred by coach Houston Nutt.
At USC, competition in the quarterback’s stable was fierce with Mustain competing against a few future NFL signal callers and he would go on to start only one more game in his once auspicious college career, a 20-16 loss to Notre Dame his senior season. As the lights faded at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that evening, so did a star that had once shimmered brilliantly not so long before.
So what happened?
Matthew Wolfe, a Fayetteville filmmaker and sports enthusiast wanted to know. “The kid was a true freshman playing in the toughest conference in the country and he was 8-0. I understand sitting him down for a spell, but you have to come back to him. The whole thing confused me. I wanted answers and I wanted to see a documentary done about it … and since no one was going to create one, I did.”
Avid college football fans the country over have always wanted to know the answer to this million dollar question. ESPN college football insider Joe Schad couldn’t even answer it when his wife posed the question to him prior to sitting down with Wolfe for an interview to be included in the documentary.
“I don’t know,” simply was Schad’s response.
Well, after nearly a year, Wolfe seems to have found the answer and is willing to share it with not only the Schad family, but also the world, as his documentary has come to fruition and is titled The Identity Theft of Mitch Mustain. The film chronicling the object of his inquisitory is set to premiere at the 7th Annual Little Rock Film Festival from May 15-19.
The talented producer/director takes you on the unexpected journey of one of the most decorated high school football players of our time, an odyssey of many successes and failures which the subject refuses to be defined by.
With abbreviated stints in the Canadian Football League (Hamilton Tiger-Cats) and Arena Football League (Georgia Force), along with an experimental season in the Chicago White Sox organization as a relief pitcher, Mustain has been kept far removed from the spotlight he once occupied, but he has yet to give in and settle for a desk job as he has once again found a temporarily home in San Jose with the SaberCats of the AFL backing up 18-year veteran signal caller Aaron Garcia.
The 90-minute documentary narrated by legendary former Arkansas basketball coach will focus on how the 25-year-old with the perfect haircut who takes it all in stride in his pursuit of an identity outside the limelight.
When I asked Wolfe what he had hoped to gain by sharing this film, he replied, “Ultimately, I can’t wait for people to learn more about Mitch as a person rather than just a football player. The thing I look forward to most is people getting to know him for who he is, rather than who he’s painted to be. I want him to be able to pay his bills. If it is by playing football, perfect. But I do not want him sitting behind a desk. That’s not fun at all.”
Wolfe said that in 10 years that he would like to hear that Mitch is in the Himalayas hiking barefoot with his hair all messed up, and although he believes a trip is realistic, the latter is nearly impossible.