By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, April 25th, 2009 at 8:20 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Having never seen him play other than a few clips of him laying out an opposing player, I have no idea if Mike Mitchell is the long-sought answer at safety for the Raiders. But I’m guessing you’re going to like what you hear from him.
A transcript of a conference call with Raiders second-round pick Mike Mitchell, No. 47 overall:
Q: Some draft analysts were surprised you went so high. Were you?
Mitchell: To be honest about it, my agent said there was a really good chance I could go early. I visited a lot of teams, I visited eight teams within the last month, so I knew there were a lot of teams that were interested. It was going to come down to who needed and wanted me more. This is a life-long dream that I’ve had. I’m extremely pumped. I’m shocked that it happened so quickly. It’s something you work for your entire life, and then one day, it’s just given to you. As far as what round I went in, (phone cuts out briefly) third round, my agent was saying there’s an extremely high possibility that you could get up there.
Q: Don’t make combine, what were you able to do last few months . . .
Mitchell: Coming from a small school, I don’t know who votes for the combine and everything like that, I definitely feel like I’m a good football player. I think when my tape got out, people started really evaluating me and looking at my play, with the 40 times and my Pro Day, people were saying he’s a for real football player, he just happened to play at a small school. I think once they started to realize that and see that, that’s when the interest picked up.
Q: Biggest hitter in draft, according to Tom Cable. Something you’ve prided yourself on?
Mitchell: I remember being a young kid and watching, not NFL Network but ESPN classic, my dad and I would watch old films of Jack Tatum and Ronnie Lott and he’d say, that’s how you play football. So from a young age, I knew it was about hitting and being physical. I definitely model myself after those two individuals. I like to impose myself on other people. Obviously, I think I’m a good guy in coverage, I can get interceptions and return the ball when I can, but if there’s an opportunity, I usually take my shots, but if I get a shot to hit you, then I’m going to try and knock the person out.
Q: Have you knocked some guys out on the field?
Mitchell: I think there’s been like three, but everybody usually gets up, but there’s three that I’ve actually, really, put down.
Q: Were you disappointed not invited to the combine?
Mitchell: I really was. I’d been a starter for three years and had good numbers. Coming from a small school, those voters are going to see the guys that come from the USCs, the Missouris, the Texas’s, and those guys because they think those guys are the best players. I’m just so excited, I feel 100 percent blessed by God to have this opportunity, because not only did I get drafted, but I showed that, hey, maybe you should start looking at these small school guys too.
Q: What did the typical Ohio game look like in terms of attendance?
Mitchell: I think we were on TV like four times this year. And probably about, I’d say, 18,000 at our games.
Q: How did you wind up at a small school?
Mitchell: Well, you’ve got to think, coming out of high school, right now I’m like 6-1, 220 pounds. But coming out of high school I was 5-11, 188 pounds. So I feel like in college they kind of recruit you for what you were coming out of high school. Obviously if you looked at a picture of me when I was in high school to now, you’d say no way it was the same person. Also, coming out of high school I had three offers. I had Ohio University, Miami of Ohio and the University of Cincinnati. Cincinnati was a good school but they were in Conference USA. Ohio had a good coach, Frank Solich, coming in from big-time Nebraska, told me I could play early, and I jumped on that opportunity.
Q: You carry a chip on your shoulder then? And will you still?
Mitchell: I definitely did. I definitely did. I felt snubbed ever since the day that I, like I said, only had those three offers. I’ve always known that I was a good football player. For me to say someone’s better than me, they have to prove it to me. We have to see each other on the field, or however we have to do it. Our teams have to play each other, etc., etc. But you have to prove it to me. Some guys, I went to the camps, I was like, ‘What are they doing?’ Maybe he’s an inch taller than me right now, or he ran a 10th of a 40 time faster than me. Jump to college, now I’m the guy running the 4.3s, the 4.4s. So now, that’s just how it worked out.
Q: What kind of vibe did you get on your visit to Oakland?
Mitchell: Man, it was unreal. I visited maybe 12 teams over the whole process. Like I said, I visited eight over the last month. And everyone, they’re so business-oriented. They want to just bring you in and get your physical. A couple of times I heard, ‘Hey, this isn’t college recruiting. If we draft you, you got no choice but to come here.’ You know what I mean? But when I was out in Oakland, it was very welcoming, and it was a warm place. I just felt it. And then just being around and seeing that tradition, the pictures of Biletnikoff and those guys, Bo Jackson and those guys, I was overwhelmed, like, man, this is a rich tradition. I’m not gonna sit here and lie to you guys and say I was a huge Oakland Raider fan when I was growing up. Obviously, I was right across the river from Cincinnati. Even though they’ve been a bad team, they were the team I rooted for till today. But it was a tradition I knew they had. John Madden coming from there, those type guys. I wanted to really be a part of that. So if I had had my choice, Oakland was definitely my No. 1 choice, just for the chance that I could’ve came in and compete. And that’s the biggest thing I wanted. I wanted to be able to come in and compete. Obviously, they don’t guarantee spots. People’s livelihoods are on the line. No spots are guaranteed but there’s an opportunity to come in and compete. The whole vibe out there felt right. I actually know one of the guys on the team, Ricky Brown, his younger brother Mike Brown played at my college. It was just a really good fit for me. I’m a Christian guy nand I’ve been praying on it and I’m so happy to god that I’m here now I’m ready to show everybody this wasn’t a mistake and I’m for real.
Q: Ricky Brown taught us all about skyline chili.
Mitchell: Oh yeah. I’ve had to lay off that for the last couple of months. As soon as I get a break I’m gonna get me about three or four chili dogs.
Q: Did you have sense Raiders liked you?
Mitchell: I really did. I really did to be 100 percent honest. The whole vibe when I was there felt really good. I felt almost at home there. There was one other place where I actually said I could fit in here just as well as in Oakland. My agent was telling me, ‘teams are really scrambling right now. Mike, you’re a hot commodity now. Somebody will pull the trigger on you it’s just a matter of when.’ My agent was actually thinking I might slip into the first round because I had been to 13 teams. A lot of teams showed a lot of interest. They don’t just bring a guy in for fun. Once that started happening teams were like how bad do I want him. I’m 100 percent confident in my abilities. God has blessed me with some great abilities. I’m just so happy to have this opportunity and I want to take advantage of it for sure.
Q: Thoughts when Raiders traded back?
Mitchell: I thought I was going to Chicago. Because they had told me to stay
close to my phone. When they did that, ‘I was like OK, I’m going to be a Chicago Bear.’ That’s what I was thinking. Oakland was able to get to 47. They traded back and it takes a couple of minutes to tell you where they will be. When I saw it was 47 I thought there was still a chance here we’ll see what happens. It’s so amazing how this has happened and worked out. I’m just pumped.
Q: Do you prefer Mike or Michael?
Q: Do you see yourself as strong or free?
Mitchell: I don’t really like to put terms on it. I see myself as a safety.
When people watch film of me, they’ll see a guy that has great range in the deep zones, I can play man-to-man, I have a lot of speed. I can play deep safety. I’m a pretty good hitter. That’s not me saying that it’s just what the tape shows. I’m a solid tackler and I like to be in the box. I can do both. I think that’s why my value was so high because a lot of guys in this draft that could just play free safety or just play strong safety. I kept hearing this term when I visited teams that I was
interchangeable. I can go from free safety one play to strong safety the next.