Former Washington Redskin and current sports commentator Brian Mitchell offered that observation and several others while delivering a motivational speech to students at the Douglass School on Monday, November 16th, during American Education Week.
Mitchell, who is married to Douglass teacher assistant Monica Mitchell, shared a number of anecdotes about various times he overcame adversity and the lessons he learned from those experiences. Mitchell, for example, talked about playing quarterback in high school despite being only 5-foot-9. He said he took people telling him that he couldn’t do something as an opportunity to prove them wrong.
Mitchell discussed having losing seasons in the NFL and seeing players cut from the team. He said that one of the most difficult days he faced was the day he was cut by the Redskins. He said that he had just read the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” prior to being cut. He recounted how the mice in the story kept going to the same place every day to look for their cheese. “I lost my cheese. I thought it was back in Washington, but it was in Philly (where he went to play for the Eagles). I had to stop worrying about what was and focus on what is. When I did that, I had my best three years ever.”
Mitchell encouraged students to think about a diploma or a degree as a “license to the world.” He said that any education teaches students “how to think, how to maneuver and how to figure things out. When you can do that, you can do anything.” He shared the story of his father requiring him to keep higher grades than were required for high school athletic eligibility in his home state of Louisiana. He said his father taught him that getting by wasn’t enough and that students should try to be better. He reminded students to strive to “make mama happy and daddy proud.”
Mitchell used the analogy of a puzzle to explain how students learn from those around them. “People give you pieces. Some fit, and you put those in place. Those that don’t, you push to the side. Even bad experiences may still teach you.”
Mitchell said one of the best pieces of advice he ever received came from Coach Joe Gibbs who told him, “The more you can do, the longer you can play.” Mitchell said that he learned that this is true in life, too, as he constantly re-invents himself to tackle new professional challenges.