James Mitchell


From Hickory To Freedom

It’s been a long road from Hickory, Mississippi. Population 499. One stop sign and your whole life built around the Hickory High Bulldogs. There were 40 in my graduating class where I played football and basketball. At Central Arkansas, I became a pretty good offensive tackle. I was always a big kid and my dad had taught me the value of hard work. I decided education was the key, and I enrolled in graduate school and became s a coach, where you learn to never fully unpack your suitcase. There were stops at the University of Arkansas and Southwest Baptist University. Then, I was offered the offensive line/strength coach at Savannah State College. Back to Missouri as the assistant head coach at SW Baptist, then to resurrect the program at the University of Arkansas at Pines Bluff, and then onto become the offensive line coach at Tennessee State University. Whew! When I was a kid, I thought traveling eight miles to East Central Junior College was a long way from home.

Caught Up In Making It

I always knew right and wrong. Growing up in Hickory, we were poor. Neither one of my parents had an education. Dad and mom were very much involved in the church, so I had no choice but to go to church…if I wanted to eat! And like I said, I was always a big kid…with a big appetite! I was baptized at nine. But later in high school – and then in college – there were drinking and drugs. I fooled around, but you’d never know it. I was captain of the college team, planning to go into a career as a coach, and there I was selling marijuana to the rest of the players. My life was a lie. I just didn’t realize it, until March 1, 1984. It was at a campus Christian revival, and I knew it was time to look toward God.

Getting Life From The Source

Throughout my life – like a lot of peoples’ lives – I concentrated only on myself. Oh, I knew how to play the game, alright. I was successful at coaching. The college, the players and the rest of the coaches loved me. I had been married for 12 years and I was a deacon teaching Sunday school. A big success. Then, there was a losing season. I had never had one before! Coaches were being fired. My life unraveled. I got into an adulterous relationship and found myself standing in front of a bankruptcy court. Yeah, I’d bought the lie. I had never come clean with Christ, and I had cut off the source of life.

Tennessee Volunteers Chaplain

I got involved with FCA, and was in charge of urban ministries, when I volunteered to lead the chapter with the Tennessee Oilers and Titans. When I found my heart was with the pros in the NFL, God came calling through PAO (Professional Athlete’s Outreach) For several years I visited NFL camps as the National Director of Outreach. NFL Players and coaches are really no different than anybody else. They need a relationship with the Creator of life, Jesus Christ just like everyone else.
Now, I’m privileged to be the chaplain for the Tennessee Volunteers.
Of course, that means that I need to stay in the Word and put on the headset that keeps me tuned into God, whether the issue is family, education, business or athletics. That’s where the Source is.

“…trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself. In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

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