What is former Alabama All-American John Mitchell going to do now that he’s retired after 50 years as a football coach?
Maybe coach more football.
Mitchell announced his retirement on Wednesday after 29 seasons on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching staff.
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Mitchell told Jim Wexell of 247sports.com’s “Steel City Insider” that he “felt it was time to move on,” and the 71-year-old has plans for his retirement.
“I’m an avid reader,” Mitchell said. “I’m a big Churchill fan, and I’ve been buying Churchill books the last four or five years. There are books I want to read. My wife and I want to do a little traveling. And there’s Miles College, an HBCU place in Birmingham I want to work at. I spent some time and know the guy there. He’s an Alabama guy. The president is an Alabama woman, so I’m going to devote my time if I want to work with them.”
READ JIM WEXELL’S “EXIT INTERVIEW: JOHN MITCHELL”
Bobbie Knight serves as Miles’ president, and Sam Shade is the Golden Bears’ football coach. In addition to playing for the Crimson Tide, Shade played eight seasons as an NFL safety and was a prep standout at Wenonah High School.
Mitchell also was prep standout in Alabama.
A Mobile native and Williamson High School alumnus, Mitchell became the first African American to play varsity football at Alabama in 1971 after coach Paul “Bear” Bryant convinced Eastern Arizona’s two-time Junior College All-American to join his home state’s Crimson Tide instead of going on to Southern Cal.
In his second season, Mitchell was a team captain and earned All-American recognition from the American Football Coaches Association as a defensive end.
Mitchell said he chose to go to Alabama not so much as to be a trail blazer but to test his football ability.
“You better believe I had to fight,” Mitchell told Wexell. “But when I decided to go to Alabama, and people always asked about the racial makeup, that wasn’t on my mind. What was on my mind was: Could I make this damn football team? They had some pretty good players. Back in 1960-61 they won the national championship. They came back in ‘64 and ‘65 and won it. Hey, everybody thinks they’re pretty good as an athlete, but my mindset was: Can I make this team?”
The season after being a Crimson Tide All-American, Mitchell was an Alabama coach.
After four seasons on Alabama’s staff, Mitchell had college jobs with Arkansas, Temple and LSU and also coached linebackers for the Birmingham Stallions in the original USFL.
After working as LSU’s defensive coordinator in 1990, Mitchell moved to the NFL as the defensive-line coach on Bill Belichick’s staff with the Cleveland Browns from 1991 through 1993.
Mitchell joined the Steelers as defensive-line coach in 1994 and spent 24 seasons in that capacity. In 2007, he added the title of assistant head coach and had served in that role exclusively for the past five seasons.
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.