The Oakland Raiders drew heaps of criticism after trading down and selecting little-known Mike Mitchell from Ohio University with the 47th pick of the draft.
Tom Cable wasn’t worried about the criticism. In spite of the criticism, he touted that Mitchell was worthy of the second round selection and explained the pick with a Bill Walsh saying: “When you find a player that you want, go get him. Don’t worry about it. Go get him.”
After being selected, Mitchell held court by phone with the media. Here is the transcript from that session.
Q: Hey Mike, some of the draft analysts you see on TV were kind of surprised you went as high as you did, where you surprised at all or did you expect it?
To be honest, my agent said there was a really good chance I could go early. I visited a lot of places so I knew there were a lot of teams interested in me. But it basically was going to come down to who needed me and wanted me more. It’s exciting because it’s a life-long dream I have had for so long. I was extremely pumped and shocked that is has happened so quickly. This is something you work for you entire life and then one day it’s just given to you. But as far as what round I went in, I was looking forward to the first round because it is an extremely high possibility you can get up there.
Q: You don’t get invited to the combine and to become a second round pick, what were you able to do the last few months to prove this to people?
Coming from a small school I didn’t get to go. But, I feel they might have missed me but I definitely think I am a great football player and when my time got out and people really started to evaluate me and look at my play. They realized I was a real football player that just happened to play at a small school. When they realized that and saw that, that’s when the interest really picked up.
Q: Tom Cable was saying you are a big hitter, he thought maybe the biggest hitter in the draft. Is that something you pride yourself on and is there anyw ay you are able to describe how you do that so effectively?
Well, I remember being a young kid and watching ESPN Classic and watching old films of Jack Tatum and Ronnie [Lott], and those type of guys. From a young age I realized it was about hitting and being physical. I definitely model myself after those two individuals. I like to impose myself on other people and obviously I think I am a good guy to cover and return the ball the best that I can. But if there is an opportunity I usually take my shot and if I get a challenge I am definitely going to take it and I am going to try to knock the person out.
Q: Were you disappointed when you weren’t invited to the combine?
I was, I really was. I was a starter for three years and I had good numbers. Like I said, coming from a small school those scouts want to see the guys that come from USC, Missouri, Texas and those guys because they think those guys are the best players. I am so excited because I feel a 100 percent blessed by God to have this opportunity, not only because I got drafted but now I can really show that you need to start looking at these small school guys because we can play too.
Q: What would the typical Ohio U. game look like? How many people would be in attendance and how many times were you on TV this year?
I think I was on TV four times this year and I would say about 18,000 at our games.
Q: You obviously are an exceptional athlete. How did you wind up at a small school like that, what was the route that got you there?
Well, you have to think coming out of high school…right now I am 6-1, 220 pounds. Coming out of high school, I was 5-11, 188 pounds. I feel like in college they recruit you for what you were coming out of high school and if you looked at a picture from what I looked like in high school to what I am now, you would think no way is this the same person. Also out of high school I only had three offers: Ohio University, Miami of Ohio and University of Cincinnati. Cincinnati was a good school but they were in Conference USA. Ohio had a good coach coming in with Frank Solich from Nebraska and gave me the opportunity to play early. I jumped on the opportunity.
Q: Did you carry a chip on your shoulder, then, when you got to Ohio? Will you carry that same attitude to the league?
I definitely did. I only had those three offers. I’ve always known that I was a good football player. For someone to be better than me, they’re going to have to prove it. I went to a lot of camps and things, but now I’m the guy running the 4.3’s and 4.4’s. That’s just how it worked out.
Q: Visiting all those different teams lately must have been a whirlwind. What kind of vibe did you get on your visit out here?
It was unreal. I visited maybe 12 teams over the whole process and everyone is so business oriented. A couple of times I heard that it wasn’t college recruiting, you have to come here if we’re going to draft you. When I got to Oakland it was very welcoming. It was a warm place, I just felt it. Seeing that tradition, the pictures of Fred Biletnikoff and Bo Jackson and those guys, I was overwhelmed with the rich tradition. I’m not going to lie and say I was a huge Oakland Raider fan growing up, I grew up right across the river from Cincinnati so that was the team I rooted for. But with the Raiders, I just wanted to be a part of that. If I had my choice, Oakland was definitely my number one choice just for the fact that I can come in and compete for a job. They have great tradition and the vibe just felt right. Ricky Brown, his younger brother played on my team in college, so it was just a really good fit. Now I’m ready to show everyone that this wasn’t a mistake and I’m for real.
Q: Did you have the sense that the Raiders really liked you?
I really did. The whole vibe felt really good, I felt almost at home there. People were telling my agent that I was a hot commodity and someone was going to pull the trigger on me and it’s just a matter of when. My agent thought I might slip into the first round because I’ve been to like 12 teams and they have showed a lot of interest. I’m 100 percent confident in my abilities and happy to have this opportunity and take advantage of it.
Q: What were you thinking when the Raiders traded back?
I was thinking about going to Chicago, because they told me to stay close to my phone. Oakland was able to get to 47 and thought there was still a chance there. It’s just so amazing how this happened and worked out, I’m just pumped.
Q: Do you see yourself as a strong safety at the next level?
I don’t like to put terms on it. I see myself as a safety. People see on film that I have great range in the deep zone and can play man to man. I have a lot of speed but also I’m a pretty good hitter. I’m a solid tackler. I can do them both. That’s why my value was so high because a lot of guys can just play free or strong safety.