(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Steelers assistant head coach John Mitchell will be enshrined into the National Junior College Athletic Association Foundation Hall of Fame as a member of the organization's inaugural class. He will be joined by Bob McAdoo, Larry Brown, George Killian, Lea Plarski, Sheryl Swoops and Dick 'Night Train' Lane, who will be enshrined virtually on June 24.
Before becoming the first Black football player at Alabama, Mitchell earned Junior College All-American honors in 1969 and 1970 while at Eastern Arizona and caught the attention of University of Southern California coach John McKay, committing to play for the Trojans. However, Mitchell never made it to Southern Cal. Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, the legendary Alabama coach, learned that McKay was bringing in Mitchell, so he broke racial barriers and offered Mitchell a scholarship to Alabama.
"Honors are good, but sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time," Mitchell told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com on being a member of the inaugural class of the National Junior College Athletic Association Foundation Hall of Fame. "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.
"It was time for a 17-year-old to grow up. What helped me there was with how stringent they were, it helped me grow up. It made me see things differently. I was there, I didn't have any money. I couldn't go anywhere. We were out in the middle of nowhere. You had to concentrate on your studies and work on being the best football player you could be and the best person you could be. It taught me about other people. Their religion. The things they believe in. Where they come from. How they were raised. It opened my eyes to a lot of things."
Mike Tomlin congratulated Mitchell for the honor on Twitter this morning.
"Congratulations to Coach John Mitchell on being elected to the NJCAA Foundation Hall of Fame," Tomlin tweeted. "There isn’t a more deserving man to be a part of their inaugural class. Coach Mitch is one of the best ever."
Mitchell was the Steelers defensive line coach from 1994-2017, along with having the role of assistant head coach, a title he got when Tomlin was hired as head coach in 2007. Since 2018, Mitchell has served as just the assistant head coach.