Mike Mickens was born and raised in the suburb of Huber Heights, just outside of Dayton, Ohio. The 31-year-old is an absolute legend among University of Cincinnati Bearcats fans.
Recruited by Mark Dantonio in 2005, Mickens dawned a #21 and an “S” on his chest for all four years at UC. He received All-American honors not once, but twice. The best cornerback in Bearcats history, Mickens still holds the interception record (14) and the interception return yard record (296). He was a strong component in leading the Bearcats to their first ever BCS Bowl his senior season, when the Cats took the field in the 2009 Orange Bowl.
Mickens remembers the brotherhood of those UC teams. The 2008 season was a fun year to play under coach Brian Kelly. “Many, many memories,” Mickens said, that will stick with him the rest of his life. His favorite memory is beating 7th-ranked Rutgers his sophomore year. Seeing oranges get thrown on the field to close out the 2008 regular season at Nippert Stadium is also up there.
He tore up his left knee his senior year, resulting in an unfortunate, nagging injury that would stick with him the remainder of his professional career. Considered a possible first round talent, Mickens was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He also played briefly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Calgary Stampeders, before retiring from football in 2010.
A tremendously positive and influential individual, a knee injury could not keep Mickens off the football field. Coaching was a natural transition for the UC legend.
In 2011, Mike became a defensive assistant at UC. He also earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. In 2012, he held the same position for Indiana State University. In 2013, he coached the cornerbacks at Idaho before taking the same position at Bowling Green State University in 2014.
Then, in 2018, Mickens came back home to coach the cornerbacks for the Bearcats in Clifton. In his words, “a dream come true.” Cincinnati – the place that helped put Mike Mickens on the map. Only fitting he should return to help guide a new batch of defensive backs to hopefully break all of the records Mike set, just 10 years earlier.
A talented, young bunch, including freshman Arquon Bush, sophomore Coby Bryant, and junior grad transfer Cameron Jefferies. The sky is the limit for Mickens – just the way he likes it.
Camp Higher Ground hasn’t changed much since Mickens graced the field as a player. A new building and new turf on the practice field, but the overall feel of Camp remains the same. A two-week grind designed to advance the players as much as possible before the season begins.
When Mike isn’t coaching the corners at UC, you might find him scarfing down some seafood for dinner at Pappadeaux in Springdale. A true Cincinnatian, he loves a three way with two cheese conies (with mustard and onion, of course) from Skyline. Mickens also enjoys to golf and bowl in his free-time. On a good day, he can bowl a 180, a formidable score from a competitive man.
Watch out for #21’s familiar face coaching from the sideline this year at Nippert.
By Andy Smith