NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott is teaching Terrance Mitchell ‘fearlessness’ in training
Oregon junior cornerback Terrance Mitchell, seen against Colorado, skipped his senior season to prepare for the NFL Draft and is now getting pointers from an NFL Hall of Famer. (Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian)
When Terrance Mitchell opted to forgo his senior season at Oregon to enter the NFL draft in January, he called it a chance to chase his “dream.” Six weeks before the draft begins, however, Mitchell says the process has already bordered on the surreal.
In mid-March, the would-be NFL cornerback worked out with four-time Super Bowl champion safety and Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott.
“I’ve seen a lot of highlights of his, a Hall of Famer,” Mitchell said Wednesday in a phone interview. “It’s pretty tight to learn from a legend. He’s a real cool person.”
The opportunity to pair the three-year starter at Oregon with the 10-time Pro Bowl safety arose through Jeff Sperbeck, an agent whose NOVO Agency also represents former Ducks LaMichael James, John Boyett, Dennis Dixon and UO wide receivers coach Matt Lubick.
Lott and Mitchell met at an indoor training center near the agency’s Alamo, Calif., headquarters last week, where Lott put Mitchell — wearing a sweat-soaked Oregon football strength and conditioning T-shirt — through a gantlet.
There were drills to improve his straight-ahead speed, press coverage technique and staying low while backpedaling after the snap, the latter an exercise Mitchell said was particularly helpful in staying disciplined with his form. Mitchell was unsure whether the two would work out again because of scheduling issues, so he said he took in as much as he could.
Lott apparently came away impressed.
“Today was a phenomenal day, and the reason why it was phenomenal was the fact that I saw a young man with a dream of being great in the National Football League,” Lott says in a video recapping the workout. “The other thing that I thought was phenomenal was the fact that he understands he’s got to learn a lot of new things in this league. … I believe he’s going to be a great football player in the National Football League.”
Lott’s reputation as a safety was that of one of the league’s hardest hitters. Two generations later, Mitchell played on the outside at Oregon with a mixture of footwork and instincts that led to seven interceptions. Despite their gap in age and position, Mitchell said Lott’s lessons about the mental game in the secondary are timeless.
“Just study habits and tips how to attack the gaps and the more mental aspect of the game,” Mitchell said. “He’s teaching me that fearlessness on the field and that is something that I do want to piggyback on.”
Their meeting came nearly one month after Mitchell was one of six former Ducks to compete at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. On Feb. 25, Mitchell followed a 4.63-second 40-yard dash, slow by cornerback standards, with the best time in the three-cone drill and a tie for the fastest 20-yard shuttle.
His close to the combine, along with his workout with Lott, left Mitchell upbeat about his draft prospects. The draft runs May 8-10, and one NFL.com evaluation lists Mitchell as likely being selected in either the third or fourth rounds.
“I’m feeling really good, I’m excited about it,” Mitchell said. “I can’t wait for it to come and see what team I land on so that I can play hard and win games.”
And turn his dream into reality.