Meet ONU’s Head Football Coach

Avante Mitchell shares insights on the 2024 season and how ONU can win the conference this year.
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Adam Asher

June 11, 2024 Athletics

Avante Mitchell cheering on team

For Olivet Nazarene University’s new Head Football Coach, Avante Mitchell, the journey to Olivet has been an eventful one. From receiving a scholarship to play Quarterback at the University of Louisville to coaching little league football, then high school football, and working his way through the college coaching ranks, his personal and professional life experiences have prepared him for this moment at Olivet.

Coach Mitchell is a family man. He and his wife, Ebony have raised a daughter and a son who are approaching college graduation. Both twins are collegiate athletes—one at Liberty University and the other at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Coach Mitchell shared insights into their athletic recruitment and college selection process:

“I sit in a unique seat as a college coach and recruiter. We looked for colleges where like-minded people aligned with our kids’ upbringing. Ultimately, our son and daughter were going to make the final decisions, but these were also corporate decisions, collective family school choices. We looked at how much they wanted our kids and how they showed intentionality in checking in during their recruiting processes. We looked at academics—did they offer what the kids wanted? What kind of academic support did they offer? As student athletes there are a lot of demands on their time, and we wanted to make sure they were supported in their academics. And also, the cost. That’s a factor that goes into it as well. We spent a lot of time in prayer. We’re a close-knit family and this was their chance to spread their wings and leave the nest to an extent. A strong connection with the coach was very important, and a confidence that they would treat our kids like their own kids.” 

When asked about building his coaching staff, Coach Mitchell stressed the importance of identifying coaches who were proficient at their work, but also looking for coaches who place a high value on family:

“They tell us in our industry that you always need to have a running list of people you would like to call if you have something available. In addition to the ability to coach the sport, I look for coaches who are men of character and integrity, who have a strong work ethic—efficient workers, not just hard workers. We need to align at some level in our walk with Christ, in what our beliefs are. I’m looking for family men who will model that for our players. They understand the dynamics of family—how they deal with and treat their mothers and sisters, and if they are married, their wife and children. That family dynamic may look different for each coach. My kids are 22. My staff’s kids ages range from 1 to 13. I need to be mindful of that.”

Coach Mitchell is a competitor. Growing up as a coach’s son, he has known the value of working hard, seeking to better yourself, and working with teammates to achieve great things. He strives to model these traits for his players as he had them modeled by his father and others. Hanging on the wall of his office is a Coach’s Creed (an excerpt from the poem Sermons We See by Edgar Guest) that stresses the importance of caring for every player and letting actions speak louder than words. He understands the importance of investing in others. The fact that he is a coach is a result of others investing in him.

“When I got back from college I got my first shot at coaching high school ball. Coaching under my dad, I learned so much—the majority of what I’ve learned, I’ve learned from him. Coaching at the high school level was great, but when I was 23, I coached at a camp at Penn State, and I got bit by the bug. I wanted to coach at the collegiate level. I prayed about it. I had a seven-year prayer. I prayed from age 23 to age 30, ‘Lord I want to coach college ball, I don’t want to have to uproot my family, and I want to coach in a Christian atmosphere.’ Those 3 things were my consistent prayer for 7 years, and the year I turned 30, Concordia University in Ann Arbor, MI (which was about 30 minutes from my home), started a football program. They hosted a prospect camp and invited local high school coaches to assist their staff in coaching the camp, myself included. Unbeknownst to me, it was not only a prospect camp but also a coaching evaluation. Coming out of that camp, I was offered a job. It was a blessing. I learned about specificity in prayer at that point in life.” 

Avante Mitchell coachingCoach Mitchell began his college coaching career as a position coach and has coached at several universities as he took on more responsibility as a coordinator and eventually head coach. In his first game as Olivet’s head coach, the Tigers will open their season where his collegiate coaching career began on Concordia’s campus in Ann Arbor. The following week, they will host Taylor University (Coach Mitchell’s second stop in his collegiate coaching career), a great reminder to this coach of God’s faithfulness, as an answered prayer became a coaching journey together.

“There was a gospel song in the 90’s by Daryl Coley, He’s Preparing Me. We’re being prepared right now for things we don’t know about yet. I think everything in my career has culminated here at Olivet.” 

Looking back, this preparation includes seeing his dad pour into the lives of his players, his mom cooking meals for these “surrogate brothers,” as he refers to them. It includes his time as a collegiate athlete himself, his successes and failures, his decades of experience in coaching and serving on different coaching staffs, raising his own children and taking them through the college selection process.

“I hope that I make ONU proud and represent our university well. First and foremost, I hope that I represent Christ in all that I do. And I hope to use all the experiences that I’ve had to pour into those around me and those who look to me for leadership and guidance. 

“I’m extremely excited to see how our team comes together. I love that they’ve been so receptive to our staff, buying into the culture, the philosophy, the nuances I bring—they’ve been locked in. I’m excited to see the guys on campus training here over the summer and keeping in touch from afar with those who are training at home. I’m really looking forward to camp report day on August 5th for a few weeks of Football 101, where we will bond as a team and implement and install our football schemes and techniques. 

“Our mission is to Win the West (MSFA-West). We have a daunting schedule that we look forward to. We open up at Concordia Ann Arbor, one of the country’s top programs. We look forward to sharing the field with them. Week 2 we return for our Home Opener versus Taylor University, another great program. It’s going to be our inaugural “White Out” night game that will be a new annual tradition for our season home openers. We will give away White Out t-shirts and rally towels to the first 1,000 attendees. This will be a great event for our campus, alumni, ONU families, and our local community.” 

For information about ONU Football, including the season schedule and information for high school recruits, visit

Adam Asher headshot

Adam Asher

Adam Asher ’01/MOL ’07 is a Partner and Managing Director with 989 Group. Adam lives in Manteno, IL with his wife Kristin ’05 and sons David and Lincoln.

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