While the University of South Florida looks to make a splash during the upcoming college football season, former standout linebacker Kawika Mitchell hopes to prove
himself after signing a one-year $1 million deal with the New York Giants.
Having spent his entire career with the Kansas City Chiefs so far, Mitchell enters his fifth season in the NFL having to adjust to not just a new team and conference, but a new
position as well.
With Antonio Pierce
anchoring the Giants’ defense as middle linebacker, Mitchell will shift to weak-side linebacker.
“It’s really not that big of a transition. I played outside
linebacker in college so I don’t think it’s going to be that big of an adjustment,” Mitchell said. “I’ve played middle linebacker for the past four years and I think that helped me a lot because I was already aware of the responsibilities of an outside linebacker.”
Making adjustments is something Mitchell has grown
accustomed to. After a car wreck sent him through a windshield in 2002, resulting in a separated shoulder, Mitchell vowed never to take anything for granted again.
Even though he was hoping for a lucrative long-term deal after becoming an unrestricted free agent, Mitchell was ready to begin the second phase of his career when he signed with the Giants on March 27.
The 27-year-old has led the Chiefs in tackles for the past two seasons and is coming off
consecutive 100-plus tackle
seasons. Reaching the century mark in tackles is an
accomplishment he is proud of, but Mitchell knows he can improve.
“You always want to be a 100-tackle guy and then the higher you can get over 150 is even better,” Mitchell said.
Heading into the season, Mitchell knows he can’t rely on his past accomplishments to secure the long-term deal he is seeking.
“In the NFL, you should always look at it as a one-year thing, but this puts me in a position where I have no choice (but to play well), so I need to get things done,” Mitchell said. “I definitely have a chip on my shoulder for anyone who doubted me, but I just have to put that off to the side and show what I can do.”
Although this season may prove to be the most vital of his career, Mitchell isn’t changing his approach to the game.
“I’m real comfortable in this game and I’m familiar with what offenses want to do and understand my responsibilities,” Mitchell said. “I don’t have any specific goals. I just try and keep it real simple: make the plays you’re supposed to.”
Mitchell is using that
motivation to possibly become the next great linebacker on a team with a rich history at the position. The Giants have a long line of dominating linebackers with Sam Huff, Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, Harry Carson and Jessie Armstead.
“I always knew it was a super big deal to be a Giants’ linebacker, with all the great players that have come through here. I continue to learn more about that – it’s definitely a great honor to be a part of that,” Mitchell said. “We have some great ones here right now and hopefully we can continue the rich tradition that is already in place.”