Always welcome

Kawika Mitchell wants a tradition, and he wants it to begin with USF’s linebackers.

Mitchell, a former USF football player now with the Kansas City Chiefs, watched the Bulls’ game at Kansas on Saturday from the USF sideline.

At halftime, he said he’d been looking forward to the game for a while.

“I’ve known since the offseason that (the Chiefs’) bye week was the same as this game,” said Mitchell, who is the Bulls’ career leader in tackles with 367. “I’ve been looking forward to seeing them play for a while.”

Even though Mitchell had to wait to see USF play, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been back to hang out with some of the players.

“I worked out with them during the offseason, and I played with Stephen (Nicholas) during his freshman season,” said Mitchell, who was also the Chiefs’ leading tackler in 2005. “We’ve got a good relationship. I’m trying to create that relationship, especially with the linebackers, that you can call me for anything they might need.”

Defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said staying in touch with a player’s former team is not something confined to the linebackers.

“Yes, I do encourage that (players come back),” said Burnham, who spent nine seasons as the FSU linebackers coach and coached Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks. “I’m glad they stay in touch, especially the young kids. They get to know each other and sometimes help them through tough times. They can also teach them stuff I just can’t teach them.”

According to Burnham, Mitchell isn’t the only one who’s spoken to the whole team – so has Brooks, on occasion.

“They just talk about the way they learned football and life,” Burnham said. “They’ll say, ‘This is what coach was talking about.’ Some kids have different ways of deciphering, and it’s not always completely different from what I said, but they probably like hearing from them.”

Burnham said he’s always glad to see an ex-player, especially “a good player the current players are familiar with.”

Even someone such as Nicholas, who has a high draft potential, said he’s glad to have someone such as Mitchell in his corner.

“Yeah, I would say we have a good relationship,” Nicholas said. “We talk whenever we can, or when he comes down we get a bite to eat.

“We haven’t talked too much (about the draft). He has told me to just be patient and go play; it’s your last time around.”

Nicholas also said he would like to continue what Mitchell started, and Mitchell said he was glad to be considered a pioneer of these relationships.

“I just want us to have that relationship,” Mitchell said, “because that’s really what it’s all about: the players.”