Class of 1998
Friday, April 23, 2010
By ART STAPLETON
Jason Mitchell had $2 and a dream, although his motive for that trip to Dunkinâ€™ Donuts five years ago had nothing to do with his aspirations of working in the front office of a professional football franchise at the time.
It was pro day for football prospects at Rutgers University and Mitchell, then one of the behind-the-scenes guys on Greg Schianoâ€™s coaching staff, took on a simple task. He was in charge of making sure the NFL executives in town to check out the Scarlet Knightsâ€™ talent received professional treatment from arrival to departure.
All Rick Reiprish, the college scouting director of the New Orleans Saints, wanted was a cup of decaffeinated coffee, and there wasnâ€™t any at Rutgers Stadium that day. Cresskillâ€™s Mitchell got it done by hitting the road and doing his job.
"Iâ€™ve always believed that no job is too small, and Iâ€™ve taken pride in whatever was asked of me," Mitchell said with a laugh. "The little things always matter to me. I would like to think thatâ€™s why I have gotten to where I have."
He paused before adding: "I guess that cup of coffee changed my life."
At the very least, it ended up creating the biggest break of Mitchellâ€™s career.
He never imagined Reiprish would be interviewing him for a position within the Saintsâ€™ front office less than two years later.
His rÃ©sumÃ© made him a qualified candidate. The fact Reiprish remembered Mitchellâ€™s do-anything-without-being-asked approach â€” exemplified by that impromptu run for coffee â€” is what sealed his hire.
"Jasonâ€™s passion for football and this job comes through with everything he does," Reiprish said of Mitchell, in his third year as the teamâ€™s college scouting coordinator. "This is a business where the more you know about the day-to-day operation [of the franchise], the more valuable you become. Jasonâ€™s very valuable, and heâ€™s got some story."
Mitchell, 30, has gained remarkable perspective about the intricacies of the game without ever playing a down of organized football. He spent his senior year at Cresskill on the sideline with Mike Miello at Ramapo as a student manager.
He filled buckets with water, made sure there were enough copies of the practice plan to go around and took in as much of the sport as he could, breaking down film and studying the playbook.
"Heâ€™s as humble a kid as there is, and he just had this hunger to learn everything he could about the game," said Miello, whose wife is a cousin of Jasonâ€™s mother, Marilyn. "Just an unbelievable example of what can happen when kids keep pounding away at their dream, even when it might seem a long way off."
Even when Mitchell was taking classes at Bergen Community College, he was driven by his lofty goals.
He enrolled at Rutgers in 2001 and Schiano welcomed Mitchell to his staff soon after.
In his high school yearbook, when asked what he would be doing in 10 years, Mitchell wrote: "Celebrating a Super Bowl championship as GM of the Jets."
Mitchell was wrong: it took him 12 years, albeit with a different team and a less prestigious job title. Next month, he will receive his Super Bowl ring as a member of the Saintsâ€™ front office, although for the moment his focus is on the NFL draft.
His responsibilities during the draft include maintaining communication with team officials assembled inside Radio City Music Hall â€“ "Iâ€™m usually the guy on the phone between New Orleans and New York" â€“ and taking care of the logistics inside the Saintsâ€™ war room.
"Whatever needs to be done to get the job done, thatâ€™s really been my take on things," Mitchell said. "I really am living my dream."
So are his parents, Bob and Marilyn, as their Cresskill home was decorated by neighbors only hours after Jason and the Saints celebrated the Super Bowl victory.
"He eats, sleeps and drinks football," his mother said, "and we could not be more proud."
Reiprish has three decades of front office experience in the NFL, and he believes Mitchell is just getting started.
"Jason should advance in this business without a problem," he said. "He has a bright future because heâ€™s willing to do whatever needs to be done.
"When he sets his mind on doing something, itâ€™s going to get done."
That philosophy has certainly proven Super for Mitchell so far.
Cannot attach link for Document of Proof, so here is the link:
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