TARPON SPRINGS — Mitchell Wilcox was a star tight end at Tarpon Springs High School, where his size, 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, and talent on the gridiron led the converted lineman to commit to the University of South Florida before his junior year with the Spongers.

In his first three years with the Bulls, Wilcox had 72 receptions and six touchdowns, including a school record-breaking 43 catches for 540 yards in 2018. That earned him first team all-conference honors and forced Wilcox to evaluate his NFL draft status before he ultimately decided to stay in school for his redshirt senior season this fall.

Throughout his meteoric rise, Wilcox has retained strong ties to Tarpon Springs, and city officials recently recognized the 21-year-old for his exemplary efforts on and off the field.

“Mitchell is a Tarpon High graduate and he’s currently going to school locally at USF,” Commissioner Jacob Karr said during the March 26 City Commission meeting. “He’s somebody I’ve known for quite some time—I grew up going to church with him and his family.”

After noting the towering Wilcox “is a lot bigger than he was than when I remember him growing up in church,” Karr said: “We wanted to take this time and honor you, as a local graduate of Tarpon Springs High School and as a resident of Tarpon Springs. You’re doing great things in the community and great things with your school and in football and we are proud of what you’re doing.”

After accepting the plaque and posing for photos with the commission, Wilcox sat with his family and watched the rest of the meeting.

Afterward, he spoke about being recognized by officials in his hometown.

“It’s such an honor to be recognized by the city of Tarpon Springs,” he said. “My roots are dug deep here. It’s very sentimental for me and hopefully one day I will be able to give back to the community. That’s high on my priority list.”

Asked about his future on the field, Wilcox said after weighing whether to leave school early and enter this year’s NFL draft, he chose to stay in school.

“I was told I was a mid-late round draft pick, so I elected to stay and complete my redshirt senior season at USF,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Karr said he had little doubt Wilcox would represent Tarpon Springs well no matter where he goes or what he does.

“Mitchell is a great kid from a good family and it’s nice to see him do well because he’s worked so hard,” Karr said.

“He has a great heart, great passion, he’s a great leader and he’s humble. He’s the kind of person you want to see come out of Tarpon Springs representing the community.”