Junior College transfers can find the big time. Going from the JuCo ranks to a major college and becoming a force at linebacker sent this player to the Senior Bowl where the Browns and Chargers expressed their interest. This doesn't figure to be a fight over undrafted free agent Antonio Gates
Lance Mitchell is a linebacker that many teams have scouted throughout the week in Mobile. Both teams that showed the most interest are expected to play the 3-4 defense in 2004..
After being told he could not play in Florida after committing to be a Gator (he was one course shy of being eligible under SEC rules), Mitchell put all his efforts into helping Oklahoma rise to dominance as their top middle linebacker.
Mitchell came to the Senior Bowl with an open mind. In a game of college All-Stars, his goal was to be seen during the week and be remembered for his performance on Saturday.
It didn't matter that most scouts would be long gone by the time the game started. It didn't matter that Thursday the place had cleared out. Game tape will get around. An impression made during Senior Bowl week can easily be backed up by a reminder down the road when the game tape hits NFL complexes.
"They were here all week at practice," said Mitchell. "Make your impression in practice. The game is something that they can look at later."
Getting back into football took a day for many of these players. They all had been off working out but hadn't been involved in a game of organized football or practices in a month. Instead of running and agility enhancement exercises, they were back and with only a limited time to prove themselves.
"This is very important," Mitchell explained. "You show them you are a football player first and an athlete. That you can play football and are a decent person.
"A smart football player."
Mitchell wants to show he is all those things and more. He knows he has some things to work on to excel at the next level and the Senior Bowl was a step in that direction.
Now he goes back to his training but when rookie camp opens in May, Mitchell will be ready to tackle his new life. He already has a grocery list of things he wants to improve upon:
"Hand placement, tackling, pass rush, you name it," he said.
An ACL injury during his junior season brought his tackling totals down from 124 as a sophomore to 78 as a senior. The Oklahoma standout had 10 tackles for a loss this past season and two sacks. His knee may end up being the determining factor in his selection come April.