The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Mirza reflects on NCAA Division I debut

Junior Eli Mirza chose to attend Eastern because the school felt like home. The Sacramento wide receiver played two years at Sierra College before transferring to EIU. (File)

Thursday, Aug. 31 was junior wide receiver Eli Mirza’s first NCAA Division I appearance.

The Sacramento, Calif. native recorded 27 rushing yards, and he also recorded a 21-yard punt return.

Mirza also recorded four catches for 82 yards.

“Eli has done a phenomenal job learning the offense,” Head Coach Chris Wilkerson said. “He has gotten better and better every single day.”

Before coming to Eastern, Mirza played at Sierra College in Sacramento.

Throughout his two years with the Sierra College Wolverines, Mirza was a two-time Northern California Football Association National Division All-NorCal League wide receiver (2021-2022).

Mirza ended his 2021 season with the Wolverines with 41 receptions for 533 yards and seven touchdowns.

Mirza ended his 2022 season with 74 receptions for 929 yards with 10 touchdowns.

Mirza also had two games with 10 receptions and four games with more than 100 receiving yards in the 2022 season.

In 2022, Mirza was also named an All-State player.

Eastern was one of the first schools to be interested in Mirza after his 2022 season in California.

Mirza said that he chose to attend Eastern because he liked the family aspect that the school provided.

“Ever since I came here on my official visit, it felt like home,” Mirza said. “The people, the teammates; everybody welcomed me with open arms.”

Mirza was junior quarterback Pierce Holley’s favorite target in the game against Indiana State on Thursday evening.

“I feel like our connection is good,” Holley said about the chemistry between him and Mirza. “He’s a guy that’s always open. When we give him the ball and the space, he does good things.”

Mirza still thinks there is always room for improvement. After the shutout against Indiana State, Mirza watched the film from the game on Friday morning and looked for what he and the offense could improve on.

“It was just small things that we did incorrectly, like not going to the correct guy to block on the second level to help our running backs make a bigger play,” Mirza said.

Mirza said he was nervous before the game because it was his first NCAA Division I game.

“I was trying to get used to the speed,” Mirza said. “Going back on film and actually watching it, seeing that I could’ve done a lot better and running my routes a little differently, it showed.”

Wilkerson said he is seeing Mirza improve throughout his time at Eastern so far.

“He has continued to develop,” Wilkerson said. “He’s also naturally gifted as an athlete. He is what we’d consider fast and twitchy. He had a couple of explosive plays for our offense, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get the ball in the hands of our guys that can make explosive plays.”

Mirza is ready to continue improving throughout the season with the Panthers.

“I’m ready to get after it this week,” Mirza said.

The Panthers will travel to Bowling Green, OH for their next game against the Bowling Green Ohio Falcons on Saturday.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Zaria Flippin can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Zaria Flippin
Zaria Flippin, Sports Editor
Zaria Flippin is a junior sports media relations major. This is her first year at The News.
Ashanti Thomas
Ashanti Thomas, Photographer
Ashanti Thomas is a senior digital media major. She previously served as photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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