Isaac Mitchell wasn’t sure if the Ivy League school would be a good fit for a young man from Salina. After one visit to New Haven, Conn., and Yale University, those concerns quickly fell by the wayside.

A senior at Salina South, Mitchell signed with the Yale football program during a ceremony Wednesday afternoon in the South High commons.

“I went on my visit the first weekend of December,” Mitchell said. “I checked out New Haven and the campus. Before that I wasn’t too sure about the Ivy League thing, but when I was there I realized this is the real deal and it was immediately at the top of my list.”

Mitchell was a three-year starter at defensive end for the Cougars and earned numerous postseason honors during his high school career, including first-team Class 5A all-state this past winter.

Yale was looking for a good football player, but also had academic standards Mitchell was required to meet before the Bulldogs could make him an offer.

“When we talk to kids about recruiting, the goal for them between their freshman year and November of their senior year is to open as many doors as possible,” South coach Sam Sellers said. “You don’t open doors just by being a good football player, but also by being a good student.

“The first question from a school like Yale is ‘How does this student do academically?’ Isaac is a sharp kid who worked really hard in the classroom. He put himself in a position where he had tons of options because he was a good football player and a good student.

“Going to Yale and having it paid for is pretty incredible. It would be hard to say no to that.”

That was similar to Mitchell’s thinking, but first he had to determine if Yale was a good fit for him both as a student and an athlete.

“Basically I was really nervous going in,” Mitchell said. “I’m from the middle of Kansas and a midwestern kid heading to the east coast where I’ve never been before. This is a prestigious Ivy League school and I didn’t know what to expect.

“What I found was a family culture in the football program and how nice people were to me, even though I didn’t know anyone up there. It surprised me how welcoming everyone was.”

Yale competes in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision and ranks No. 2 all-time in total number of victories with 902. That sits between No. 1 Michigan (944) and No. 3 Texas (900). Its rivalries with Princeton and Harvard are among the oldest in all of college football.

Mitchell was impressed with the history of the program and the facilities of a school typically recognized for its academics.

“I didn’t know how competitive it would be, being in the Ivy League,” Mitchell said. “But that was just me not knowing much about it. The football facilities are extremely nice and when we toured the campus, the academic facilities are just insane.”

Mitchell, the son of Tracy Workman and Paul Mitchell, plans to pursue a degree in either business finance or civil engineering, so he was happy to see Yale fit his academic needs as well. He is also a defending 5A state champion in the javelin, but plans to focus on football and his studies at the collegiate level.

“You go to college for an education and that’s what I was looking for first,” Isaac said. “I wanted to make sure it had everything I wanted.

“When you see the campus and hear all the names of the alumni that have come through Yale, that’s a large factor. But they also have a good engineering school and that’s something I’m looking for.”