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Justin Vanfulpen - LionsFans.com
SAGINAW – A homecoming, and playing with a good friend, those are two things that helped tight end Pete Mitchell make the decision to come to Detroit, plus with the West Coast offense that new head coach Marty Mornhinweg was putting in was even more of a bonus.
"I think a lot of things factored into it," said Mitchell. "The new organization, the new coaching staff and what Marty brought in with the West Coast offense, it is something that I've been trying to get into since I got into the league."
"So when I saw all those things and financially they offered me a very good deal, and also being from this area there was a lot of excitement to be able to come home and be able to play in front of my friends and family," said Mitchell.
Mitchell grew up in Bloomfield Hills and played at Birmingham Brother Rice. He also played at Boston College, where one of his best friends was Stephen Boyd, the Lions' Pro Bowl middle linebacker. They have remained close in their pro careers, and both entered the NFL in 1995.
"We've kept in touch quite a bit the six years we've played, we're still good buddies," Mitchell said.
One factor that Mitchell didn't plan on was coming in and being the starting tight end so soon. The West Coast offense uses a lot of two tight end sets, but with the injury to starting tight end David Sloan, Mitchell has been forced into the starting role.
"This is a good opportunity for him -- first of all to get reps, time after time with the first offense," said Mornhinweg. "We talked about what I would expect when he's in there with the first group. He knows what the expectations are."
But Mitchell's goals are still the same no matter if he is the starter or not.
"My goal always is to be the every-down tight end," said Mitchell. "That's just the way I approach things. I want to play every play."
One thing that Mitchell does have that most of the other Lions don't have is the experience of playing in the Super Bowl, which Mitchell did last season with the New York Giants.
"Other then us losing, up until the game ended it was a great experience, said Mitchell. "Not a lot of guys have the opportunity to do that so I just tried to soak it all in while I was there and realize that it was something pretty special to be there and be able to play in it. I was more then I kind of thought it would be."
Mitchell does think that there are a lot of similarities between the New York Giants that went to the Super Bowl last season and the 2001 Detroit Lions.
"Actually there is a lot of similarities, last year at this time not a lot of people really had the Giants going to the Super Bowl," said Mitchell. "We have a solid defense here, and they had a solid defense in New York. The offense kind of came along and the defense won us a few games. So I would say there are a lot of similarities. "
Mitchell doesn't think the Lions are that far off from become a Super Bowl team of their own, but it is just going to take a few things to go right.
"This team came into New York last year and beat us up pretty good, so obviously the talent is there it is just the ability to play consistent for 16 games and see what happens. These guys where 9-7 last year so they're not that far off."
The Lions and their fans would love to see them go and win the Super Bowl, and the West Coast offense could be a large factor to their success this season. Mitchell likes the offense and this is the first time he has been in it.
"It's the offense I've been trying to get into since I got in the league. In New York, I got in a little of it. It's the first time I've been in the pure West Coast. I love catching the ball and making plays," said Mitchell.
The West Coast is friendly to the tight end position and they are called on to make plays.
"A lot of the reads make you are No. 1 in the progression," said Mitchell. "If you win your match-up, you'll get the ball. In a lot of offenses, the tight end is very seldom the No. 1 guy. I just have to prove I'm not a deficit in the run game."
The Lions have two good tight ends when Sloan gets back to full strength, but the two are very different tight ends.
"One thing is our size, he (Sloan) is 6-6, 6-7 and he has 20 or 30 pounds on me. People see me as a receiving tight end, but David is an excellent receiver, a very good route runner and has good speed for being so big. So the biggest difference is size and his ability to sustain blocks at the line of scrimmage."
This season look for both Mitchell and Sloan to have good years if they both can stay at healthy, and if they do, the team should be successful. If that does happen Mitchell's home coming to Michigan will be even a bigger success then he even thought.
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