John Mitchell To Be Inducted into NJCAA Hall of Fame
Former Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman John Mitchell has been announced as an inductee into the inaugural Hall of Fame class of 2021 for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA.) Mitchell, alongside Wilbur Jackson, was the first black football player at Alabama as well as the first black, full-time coach at Alabama.
A Mobile, Alabama native, Mitchell made it a goal to play football at Alabama in an age where it seemed all but impossible. However, after two stellar years at Eastern Arizona, where he was a two-time All-American, and a chance golf match between Paul "Bear" Bryant and USC coach John McKay, he made his dream a reality. In two playing seasons at Alabama, Mitchell helped the team to a 21-3 record, starting all 24 games, and earned All-SEC and co-captain honors.
"Honors are good, but sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time," Mitchell told Steelers.com. "Thinking back, I was in the right place at the right time. When I went out to Arizona, I didn't even have a scholarship. I thought I was just going out there for a tryout, maybe be out there a few weeks. If the coach deemed you were good enough, they gave you books, maybe tuition, fees. Maybe even a partial scholarship. I was taken aback by that. It was a Mormon school. I didn't even know what Mormons were back then."
Mitchell was drafted in the seventh-round of the 1973 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Things didn't work out in the pros, so Mitchell went back to Alabama to pursue a law degree the same year, but a full-time coaching gig offer from coach Bryant with the Crimson Tide defensive ends changed his career course.
With three years under his belt, Mitchell moved on from Alabama, climbing the coaching ranks. Throughout his career, Mitchell has coached alongside the likes of Lou Holtz, Bruce Arians, Bill Belichick and Bill Cowher.
Mitchell found a home with Cowher and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1994. For the past 27 years, Mitchell has been a coach in Pittsburgh, making him the longest tenured coach in franchise history and the longest tenured coach with one team in the NFL today. When Mike Tomlin was named head coach in 2007, Mitchell was promoted to assistant head coach, a position he's held since.
Mitchell will be inducted virtually May 24 Bob McAdoo, Larry Brown, George Killian, Lea Plarski, Sheryl Swoops and Dick 'Night Train' Lane.