CINCINNATI -- Joe Mixon struggled with his emotions after being drafted by the Bengals in the second round Friday night, a career-high point for a talented player who experienced intense backlash for punching a woman in the face while at Oklahoma.
The Bengals selected the controversial running back with the 48th overall pick after trading second-round picks with the Minnesota Vikings. The Bengals traded down in Round 2, sending the No. 41 pick to Minnesota in exchange for the No. 48 pick and a fourth-round pick (No. 128).
Cincinnati viewed Mixon as one of the best players in the draft and had him ranked as the No. 2 running back behind Leonard Fournette, who went fourth overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mixon was viewed by many as a first-round talent, but his off-the-field issues caused him to slide to the middle of the second round.
Mixon was openly emotional during a conference call with reporters Friday night, pausing at times to cry.
"You know, I am still sitting here crying. I can't believe it. I can't believe it," he said. "You know, I am thankful and very honored to be a part of -- to be a Cincinnati Bengal."
Mixon was suspended by Oklahoma for the entire 2014 season after he punched a woman in a Norman deli. The 20-year-old reached a civil settlement agreement April 21 with the woman, Amelia Molitor. Terms of the settlement were not released.
Mixon accepted a plea deal in the criminal case stemming from the incident. Surveillance video of the altercation, which showed Mixon throwing a punch that fractured multiple bones in Molitor's face, was released by Mixon's attorneys in December, more than two years after the incident.
"It changed me a lot as a person, the way you think, the way you carry yourself, go about things," Mixon said Friday. "I'm going to continue to keep doing the right thing around the community, on and off the field. And I'm going to prove to them why they kept me. Leaving from Oklahoma, I still have their name, at the end of the day. I'm going to do whatever I can to make them proud and make them happy. I'm looking forward to doing that with the Cincinnati Bengals as well."
The Bengals were among only four teams that said they would consider drafting Mixon in an anonymous survey by ESPN's Adam Schefter of all 32 NFL teams.
The Bengals felt comfortable drafting Mixon after a visit with him at the NFL combine and his visit to Cincinnati. They felt Mixon answered all the questions asked of him and don't believe he will be a problem in the locker room.
"We've done a lot of work. I had no idea when we went into this process anything that had occurred three years ago," said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. "For me, it was from the ground up, every single detail, every single aspect of it."
Although Lewis accepted Mixon's explanation, he said watching videotape of Mixon punching Molitor in the face was unsettling.
"I don't know who isn't disgusted with what they saw. But that's one day in a young man's life, and he's had to live that since then and he will continue to have to live that, and he gets an opportunity to move forward and write his script from then on," Lewis said. "It's come to a conclusion with the young lady. They've come to their statements, her statement about how they both could've handled the day better. But again, that doesn't change it."
The Bengals have a history of taking chances on troubled players, to mixed results, drafting players such as Chris Henry and Odell Thurman. Cincinnati also was one of the few teams to show interest in signing Adam Jones after his off-the-field issues put him in the NFL's crosshairs early in his career and led to a one-year suspension.
Bengals owner Mike Brown stood by Jones after his January arrest, calling himself "overly tolerant."
Brown's daughter, Katie Blackburn, the Bengals' executive vice president, is one of the highest-ranking female decision-makers in the NFL.
Mixon's talent was obviously appealing to Cincinnati. He rushed for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns in two seasons at Oklahoma, caught 65 passes for 894 yards and 9 touchdowns, and returned kicks and punts. Mixon will likely be an immediate addition to the Bengals' backfield, despite the presence of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.
"Obviously, this is a pick that opens everybody's eyes," Lewis said. "We've done such a lot of work regarding Joe Mixon throughout the entire process this year. Based on all the time, all the research, we felt that we can continue to move forward. Joe's situation kind of came to a settlement in all ways this week, which also led us to feel better about the opportunity here and to move forward. We've done all of our due diligence we can do, time spent interviewing people, everybody around him, everybody around his background, people that have coached at Oklahoma for insight regarding him and how he has carried himself since that day."
Kim Gandy, president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, said this week she was concerned Joe Mixon could have another outburst. Gandy said she is concerned his temper could resurface.
"I would say it's not so surprising that a team picks a violent person," she told Schefter. "But it is disappointing."
Information from ESPN's Jake Trotter was used in this report.