OAKLEY -- It doesn't seem as if Freedom High senior Joe Mixon has had much free time over the past 12 months.
As a junior, he rushed for more than 1,400 yards and scored 28 touchdowns in 12 games with the Falcons' football team, and he won the 100 meters at the Bay Valley Athletic League track and field championships. But his rise to national prominence was only beginning.
Through his dizzying performances at a dozen football camps in the spring and summer, Mixon became one of the most sought-after recruits in the country. He holds more than 50 scholarship offers, a distinction not even held by some of the best running backs to come out of the East Bay such as Marshawn Lynch, Jahvid Best and Maurice Jones-Drew.
He recently narrowed his college choices to Cal, Oregon, Wisconsin, Florida and Oklahoma, and has said he will announce the winner at the Army All-American game in January.
Maybe at that point, he'll finally be able to take a breather.
"Yeah, when I get my breaks, I try to make the most of them," the charismatic Mixon said. "Obviously, I've been busy traveling with football, but I get breaks every now and then."
Mixon isn't quite as fast as Best or as powerful as Lynch was when they were in high school. But at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, he possesses a rare combination for a running back of speed and size, not to mention elusiveness and playmaking ability.
One Division I college scout said there hasn't been anyone like Mixon come out of the East Bay for 15 to 20 years.
"Skill-wise, he's honed everything he's done well the last few years," Freedom coach Kevin Hartwig said. "He's bigger and stronger now, and he's being more physical."
Right now, Mixon's sole focus is on his senior season. With quarterback Dante Mayes and receiver Darrell Daniels now at Nevada and Washington, respectively, Mixon has become a more vocal and respective presence among his teammates.
"The biggest thing is probably his leadership," Hartwig said when asked how Mixon has grown since last season. "He was kind of in the back seat with Darrell and Dante here the last few years, so just his leadership, his vibe and his presence. That part, he's grown up and taken on that role."
Mixon is confident his team can contend for a second straight BVAL championship. First, the Falcons host Amador Valley in the season opener for both teams Friday at 7 p.m.
"It's all coming together, and we're playing as a team," Mixon said. "We're going to be very good this year."
Follow Curtis Pashelka on Twitter at twitter.com/Curtis Pashelka.