Former Ohio State Walk-On Kato Mitchell Using Skills Learned to Create Apparel Design Business

By David Wertheim on March 9, 2019 at 8:45 am
Kato Mitchell

Another Buckeye is doing amazing work.

All of the time, you see former Ohio State football players doing big things in the NFL, in broadcasting, or various other football platforms. Well, one who has gone under the radar but is seemingly ready to explode is former walk-on wide receiver Kato Mitchell.

Mitchell is not your star NFL wide receiver like Michael Thomas, not on TV like Joey Galloway, but working behind the scenes and relatively small-time (for now) to customize and design various items.

"I got started two-and-a-half years ago maybe," Mitchell told Eleven Warriors. "I was learning at home, one of my friends gave me some beat up and done sneakers and I said 'I’m not spending more money on shoes, let's see if I can paint these up.' My friend knew about the game and everything and told me how I can get started doing stuff fixing shoes and things like that and I could make my own little side money."

Mitchell currently is working on designing and customizing a large range of products including hockey and lacrosse helmets, basketball shoes, regular sneakers, and, most recently, a custom ball for Ryan Day and the Ohio State football program.

One of the projects Mitchell has been working on is designing football cleats. Some of his most high-profile clients include former Buckeyes Raekwon McMillan, Gareon Conley, Parris Campbell and many more. 

He recently made Tracy Sprinkle, who just launched a clothing line of his own, customized "How She Gone Eat" cleats.

Mitchell cites Ohio State and his former coach, Urban Meyer as motivating and pushing him toward building his business, but also said he had a strong work ethic before, and being a part of the Buckeye football program only reinforced that character trait.

"Coach Meyer tried to get you into a situation to not let football use us, but so we can use the university to make our own things and get Plan B ready," Mitchell said. "I knew as a walk-on that I wasn’t going to the NFL, so I had to find my niche and what I’m good at. My brother [former Ohio State wide receiver] Jeff Greene is doing something similar with his own agility company, so learning from that football background and things like that. So I can use the university and use our name to go off."

Mitchell cited the 2014 National Championship victory and his famed block against Rutgers as some of his biggest thrills at Ohio State, and noted that being on the team, especially as a walk-on, taught and reinforced some important values.

"Something I always had that Ohio State pushed further was my work ethic. I was always a hard worker but playing in high school is very different from playing at a college level," Mitchell said. "You got guys who are first round potential from 1-2-3 all the way down the roster, and I'm coming on as a walk-on. To compete with them you gotta have a crazy work ethic and keep a positive attitude. It taught me time management, as I was doing a work-study job while I was doing football. With study tables and all that, I learned how to manage my time better which has definitely translated into my own business."

As for his plans in the future, Mitchell said he wants to continue to grow and branch out, and eventually hopes to be able to turn his business into a full-time career. For now, though, he is focused on meeting other designers and customizers, and learning more skills he can use to accelerate his growth.

"I definitely wanna branch out," Mitchell said. "Just keep working hard like I’m doing and getting more connections with different players and people. I don't wanna be known as just doing cleats for football players. I wanna go out and meet different designers and customizers." 

As mentioned above, Mitchell is working on hockey and lacrosse helmets as well as basketball shoes, and hopes to be doing work for some NBA and MLB players soon. 

As he continues to grow and develop his business, and with the help of the Ohio State network, one can only imagine how far Mitchell can take it, and he's ready.

"I'm just trying to make this art thing into a career just because its something I love," Mitchell said.

To keep up with Kato's work, follow him on Twitter @worktoon.

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