86,400 TikTok followers. 39,300 YouTube subscribers. 38,600 Instagram followers. What do you get when you combine those numbers with an Ohio State lacrosse midfielder? You get Mitchell Pehlke — a senior student-athlete at OSU who self-made his own online following through video creation. We sat down with Mitchell to discuss his journey to becoming a Buckeye athlete + his road to social media stardom.
How did you start playing lacrosse?
I was born in Timonium, Maryland outside Baltimore which is the mecca of lacrosse. We moved to northern Virginia when I was two and I lived there ever since. I grew up with a stick in my hand. Seeing pictures and videos of my dad, who played at UVA and was a four-time All-American, playing Division I lacrosse has always been my dream.
How did you decide on Ohio State?
I had three offers to Hopkins, UVA, and Ohio State. I visited the schools and decided on OSU because I had no connection here and wanted to get out and try new things. I committed to OSU in October of 2015 and I’ve never looked back. I truly love this place.
What has been the best part about being a Buckeye?
It’s got to be the school spirit. The atmosphere here on a Saturday is unmatched. Everyone wants to win, not even just with football, we feel the same with lacrosse and all the other sports. At the end of the day, you want to go to a school that has great school spirit and it really feels like a family here.
How did you start to take off on social media?
I started my social media content creation in March 2016. I grew up watching YouTubers and my mom encouraged me to get involved with something other than lacrosse. She gave me the push to get in front of the camera. I was afraid because sometimes if you do something outside of your sport you’ll get made fun of by your friends. But I made my first video on March 5, 2016 called “Pehlke and Buck Barber” and it’s a video of me giving my friend a bad haircut. It went viral at my school and from there, my YouTube channel kept growing and it’s been on a steady upward trajectory.
What is your goal for when you graduate in May?
I want to create freely for the first time in my life. I’ve always been under this light of representing Ohio State so I have to keep my content appropriate for that. It will be a creative refresher to only live by my rules and I’m really excited for that.
What are some of your top videos?
My most viewed video on YouTube is of me getting together with the No. 1 kid in the class of 2023 for lacrosse. He’s a high school senior named McCabe Millon. We did a shooting video, got a house tour because his dad is a legendary lacrosse player, and we finished with a Q+A.
On TikTok I went viral because Emily Cole, who runs track at Duke, put out a funny TikTok saying she needed a formal date, and I responded saying I would go. She asked me to formal through TikTok and we ended up making it happen and had so many people following along. I drove seven hours to Duke for her formal last December and then I made that into a YouTube video as well.
How have you been able to capitalize on NIL (name, image, and likeness) deals?
I’ve had the opportunity to partner with brands like STX, The Cheesecake Factory, IHOP, and Degree Deodorant. It’s helped me grow in the business aspect of this. Prior to coming to Ohio State, I was making money on content and merchandise. The first day I stepped onto campus I had to demonetize my YouTube channel and stop selling my merchandise because college athletes could not make any money. That was tough because I love lacrosse 50% and I love creating content 50%, so it was like taking away half my love. I’m super thankful NIL passed last July because it opened my life back up and allowed me to start creating freely again.
What advice would you give to people who want to get started in social media?
The best time to start is now. Don’t wait for the nice camera or the best idea, just go out and create videos. You don’t need the best equipment. I used the same camera for the first three years. Finally, just don’t listen to what people have to say. Anything different in life people are going to bust your chops, but I think once they see your true passion and creative ability they’ll get behind it.