Former Savannah State assistant football coach James Mitchell is living a good life these days, working as the Director of Football Development. When asked about his job duties he answered “to develop the man.”
A native of Mississippi, Mitchell is in charge of the leadership program for athletes and coaches. ” I also have administrative duties with the athletic director and coaches. I also serve as the team Chaplin,” he adds.
When Mitchell was at Savannah State from 1990- 94, he was a part of the coaching staff that helped the Tigers to their only Division II playoff appearance in 1992. Mitchell, who was the SSU offensive line coach, still keeps in contact with a few of the players and coaches. “I talk to coach Darryl McNeill, head coach at Clark Atlanta and George Small, an assistant at Florida A&M as well as former players Steve Aycock, who is now the head coach at Johnson C. Smith, and Wesley McGriff, who is now an assistant at Miami (FL).” Mitchell adds that he still visits Savannah.
“I visit Savannah about once a year. I met Leroy Beasley, who worked at the post office on Skidaway, and we became best friends. While in Savannah I joined St. John Baptist Church and became a deacon under Rev. Matthew S. Brown. Whenever I come to Savannah I make stops in town as well as Garden City and Midway. I also became a member of the Savannah Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.”
When speaking about his time in Savannah, some of the names that rang out in, addition to Beasley, were Dr. Johnnie Campbell, Horace Scandrick, the late Alan Polite as well as Richard and Clemontine Washington.
Mitchell joined the Duke staff in January 2009 after serving six years as the team Chaplin for the football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball programs at the University of Tennessee. Prior to his tenure with the Volunteers, Mitchell served as a National Director for Pro Athletes Outreach where he worked with both the NFL and Major League Baseball.
When asked what he likes most about his job, Mitchell replied “I get to build relationships with players, families and the coaching staffs. These days, kids won’t trust you unless they know you. To some kids I have been a father figure while to uncles I have been their uncle or big brother.”
Besides working at SSU, Mitchell has also coached at Central Arkansas, Arkansas, Southwest Baptist, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Tennessee State. However, Savannah State will always be special to Mitchell.
“Savannah State was the first black college I ever coached at. I am grateful to coach Bill Davis for giving me the opportunity. He broke me into the environment. Black colleges taught me more about relationships.”
When asked about what he remembers about SSU, Mitchell replied “definitely not the sand gnats.” He went on to add “I remember scoring 64 points on Fort Valley State. I also remember an article in USA Today saying that Savannah State had the best line in college football. I recruited Georgia transfers Willie Jennings and George Brewer to attend Savannah State.”
Despite liking his job, Mitchell feels he has a higher calling. “My ultimate goal is to be an athletic director.”