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Brian Mitchell Is More Than An Ex-Football Player

“I think they understand now that I played football, but football doesn’t describe who I am. I watch all sports.”

Brian Noe




Think of some of the best return men in NFL history. What are some of the qualities that separated those great punt/kick returners from others? They had the ability to make big plays. They were dependable and didn’t cost the team by making costly mistakes in pressure situations. Brian Mitchell possessed those qualities during his 14-year NFL career.

If you think about it, the same characteristics help radio hosts and sports analysts stand out as well. Unsurprisingly, Mitchell shines in those areas too.

The Louisiana native provides pre and postgame coverage of Washington Commanders football on NBC Sports Washington. Mitchell also has a weekday radio show, BMitch & Finlay, on 106.7 The Fan with his co-host and friend, JP Finlay.

We chat about Mitchell’s time in the NFL, his strong golf game and his broadcasting career which began in D.C. in the early ‘90s. Mitchell also talks about his four kids, the way he tortured himself during his career, and owns one of the best email address of all time — punt2me. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: What are a couple of things that a lot of people don’t know about you that you think they should?

Brian Mitchell: Youngest of seven. I absolutely love cooking. I think I take more pride in cooking than I did playing football. I went to school on academic scholarship. Before they even started recruiting me as a football player, I was offered an academic scholarship. I majored in chemical engineering. I didn’t want to be a media guy and I ended up being that.

I’m a golf watcher more than I am anything else. I’m a 6 handicap, so I’m okay now. It was way lower than that, but I started working again. I was a 2.1. From a military family. My mom and dad lived all over the world. I was born in Fort Polk, Louisiana. JP always tells everybody my secret; everybody thinks I’m this tough guy, he always tells people how nice I am and how giving I am. I say, hey man, you’re messing up my street cred. Don’t do that.

BN: [Laughs] What service were your parents in?

BM: My dad was in the Army and my mom went along with him. My dad, when he was in high school, his mom wouldn’t let him play football. He dropped out of high school to get his GED and then joined the military. Stayed there 20 years. I was 14 in the ninth grade — my junior high school was eighth and ninth grade — I’m the starting quarterback of the varsity football team. My mom, he’s too small, I don’t want to let him play. No, no, no. My dad looked at her and said, remember what I did and y’all say he’s just like me.

Well, she let me play. I built her a house. I said, remember you didn’t want me to play football? She said, get outta here. [Laughs] What he went through, she did not want to deal with that because everybody said I’m just like my dad. I had a mind of my own; I was gonna play football one way or the other.

BN: [Laughs] That’s great, man. Where is your hometown?

BM: Plaquemine, Louisiana. I grew up down there right across the river from Baton Rouge.

BN: How would you describe the vibe in your hometown compared to D.C.?

BM: Ah, rather slow. [Laughs] The street I grew up on in Louisiana, everybody was related. But you had a lot of fun. D.C. is the hustle and bustle. It constantly moves. I live outside of D.C. I live out in the suburbs and come into D.C. My neighborhood is all lots that are five acres or more. I kind of live like I grew up. The rural area. When I want to go somewhere, I go. When I want to get away from it, I go back home.

BN: You brought the country to D.C.

BM: There ya go.

BN: Did your media career start back in 2003 or before that?

BM: Probably a little bit prior to that. I think it was 2002. No, no, no. Hold on, let me go back, 1992. In ’91, ’92 I was listening to somebody on radio talk about what they would and wouldn’t do. So many people like to say how they will react to things, but you’re dealing with split-second decisions. As an athlete I just always hated the fact that most of the guys I saw on TV, or even on the radio, they were non-athletes. They were talking about what they would do. I just started to pursue an opportunity to be able to talk. I’ve never been afraid to voice my opinion.

I went to a little event they had, it was WHUR radio. They were looking for someone to do anywhere from five to 10 minutes on Monday to talk about what you did in the game, and on Friday what you’re going to do in the game. I started doing that and after about four or five weeks, the actual station I work for today, they picked me up to start doing the Monday Night Football show. I would do that prior to the Monday night game. Monday Night Football used to come on at like 9 o’clock back then. About a year or so later, I started doing a TV thing, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

BN: Did you enjoy doing the broadcasting stuff from the beginning?

BM: Yeah, I did because it gave me a chance to voice my opinion and also give the opinions of a lot of my teammates. A lot of people always wondered, how will I be able to talk about the guys that may have had a play, a blunder that cost us a game? What I learned, when you’re playing ball, and I was always a quarterback growing up, you know what they’re going to ask you. They’re going to ask you about the great things or the horrible things.

What I would do is always go and talk to my teammates, the guy that may have fumbled, or the guy that had three touchdowns in the game and talk to them. When they asked me the question on radio, what do you think about Donovan McNabb, he threw an interception. Well, I talked to Donovan after the game and Donovan said this. I was able to use their words without giving my opinions of it. I told them my opinions, but you have to be careful when you’re on radio. Somebody may make you say something against your own teammate.

BN: How about the non-athletes that are a part of the media. As you being a former player, what tends to get under your skin about that dynamic?

BM: Well, the thing that gets under my skin is that a lot of people in that position, they’re trying to get the favoritism of the team, the coach, the GM, the president, the owner, things like that. Everything that they’re told, they take it as fact.

My whole thing is, I’ve always told my guys this, and I try to educate them as well, if they’re telling you the same thing they’re telling everybody else, why are you running around believing everything that they say, or trying to go above and beyond to try to keep them happy?

Now, if they give you something that nobody else has, I can understand. But if they’re giving you the same stuff, then what the hell difference does it make? Because I’m gonna be who I am. And I am willing to have a face-to-face conversation with anybody. I’m not a clicks person. When I say something it’s what I believe. I don’t care if people click on it or not. But even behind closed doors, I will tell you the same stuff.

BN: Now that you’re retired from football, what do you miss most from your playing days?

BM: The checks. [Laughs]

BN: [Laughs]

BM: Nah, actually the team camaraderie. Getting ready for the year. I’m weird, I guess, because I enjoyed the preparation, the torture to get yourself into tip-top shape to be able to go through a football season. I enjoy finding out which players I know I could depend on. I can depend on this guy because I watch him put himself through the rigors of this sport. I miss that.

A lot of the friendships still go on today. A lot of guys I played with I’m still good friends with. I have them come on the show sometimes because people look at athletes as if you’re just an athlete. We cry, we laugh, we have friends, we have all kinds of failures in life, we have tragedies in our lives. When you go through all of this stuff that we go through to get prepared for a season, you form special bonds with those guys.

Duce Staley who’s still coaching, good friend. Leslie Shepherd, Earnest Byner, Terry Allen. All these guys, Darrell Green, who taught me a lot about this game. Art Monk, Charles Mann, guys who taught me how to become a man, not just a football player. Tim Johnson, who got me more into my spiritual self.

I respect all of those things. It wasn’t just me playing football. I grew from being a little wet behind the ear kid from Plaquemine, Louisiana, to a full-grown man at 54 years old now. I try my best to give as much as I can like those guys gave to me.

BN: It makes me think of Matthew Slater with the Patriots. He’s a guy who enjoys the process just like you did.

BM: I enjoyed it. I tell people, in the offseason, I tortured myself. Because the game of football is fun. Running around, you’re on TV, we dream about this job. You’re getting paid to play a game. Why wouldn’t you have fun? I remember Corey Simon, a guy who played with me in Philadelphia. He asked me the question, ‘Man, why you always laughing and joking on a football field?’

I said because I put all the work in in the offseason, so right now I’m supposed to have fun. I said one day you’re going to realize as much as a profession this is, it’s still a game. If you don’t prepare properly, you won’t ever have fun.

I was in my 11th year and Corey was in his first year. I said if you keep being that serious, I’m gonna play longer than you play from this point on. I think I did another four years, he might have done five or six. But I got close because I enjoyed it.

I absolutely love the game. I love trying to come up with a strategy that may be better than theirs. And the fact that on a football field, I don’t care how big you are, the mindset of football makes everybody come to be the same size.

BN: What’s something that you miss the least about not playing anymore?

BM: The least about playing, the travel. I could care less about the travel because I always tell people, I like to travel to have fun, not to work. We were traveling to work, but you had to do it. I don’t like the travel. A lot of the politics. It’s been many times where we know a guy should make the team but he didn’t for whatever reason.

Then the guy that makes the team in his spot is a guy that really doesn’t help us, but he’s just around and we’re like, why the hell is he on the team? He’s not doing anything to help us when that guy we know could help us. They’ll use the story that well, this guy is dependable, that guy isn’t. I don’t know how dependable this guy is, but I’m sure if he’s on the field he’ll help us more than the other guy. The politics was something I totally despise.

BN: How would you describe what it’s like to do sports radio in D.C., especially if you’re explaining that to someone who hasn’t done radio in that market?

BM: It’s fun like any other city, but we know the mindset of people that live in this town. I don’t care where you live, you could be in the ritziest neighborhood, or you can be in one of the baddest neighborhoods, you have some perspective or idea of politics. And it comes to play in the sports world as well. I know when the coaches come here, like Ron Rivera, he’s finding out right now.

He was in Charlotte, and he was able to dictate and manipulate certain things. In this town, we deal with presidents. We deal with politicians. We deal with senators. We have federal judges and the Supreme Court. We could care less what you say, because we know right. And we’re going to challenge you because when you say something, we’ve being told stuff by politicians all the time. We naturally don’t believe what you’re saying. We dig into it. And if we find out you’re lying to us, you got problems.

BN: D.C. is a very political town. With your sports show, do you separate the two, or do you dive into sports subjects that are connected to politics?

BM: If it’s politics that affect sports. If it’s like the committee that was investigating Dan Snyder, we discuss those things. But actually the Republican/Democrat debate, no, we don’t get into that. We don’t voice our opinions about who we we’re voting for and things of that nature. I think it’s best not to.

Everybody has that right to whatever they truly believe in. But not whenever it’s something that’s political like the January 6 insurrection. I feel when it’s something that affects your rights, and something that affects you as a citizen, you have to be able to discuss it. I don’t have a problem doing it. My co-host, JP, doesn’t have a problem doing it. But for the most part, we talk about sports. If we have to, we will, but we rather not talk about politics.

BN: What’s your view on the diversity or the lack thereof in sports radio, especially when there are topics that might be tied to politics that have an impact on sports?

BM: I remember working at the TV station, and we had this thing one time. Remember when Serena Williams told the line judge if you make that mistake, and I’ll shove this ball somewhere? [Laughs] I was supposed to be on the set. For some reason, the producer felt he should tell me I’m not on the set at that time. As I’m listening to the discussion, I’m seeing that there’s no representation for Serena. I was told I was on the set by one of the top guys; the producer at the last second decided he didn’t want me on it.

They all are totally against Serena. It annoys me when I hear people whether a man or a woman talking about how menacing she is. She’s an athlete, she’s a bigger person than most people, but she’s not menacing. We move to the next thing, so I’m back on and we’re going to talk about football. I say before we go on, I’m going to voice my opinion about the last segment. I remember what they said and I addressed every one of them. I say producer, I’ll see you when we’re done. He wasn’t there when we were done.

I think they understand now that I played football, but football doesn’t describe who I am. I watch all sports. I try to be a well-rounded person so I have an opinion on it. I especially have an opinion when a guy is an African American or a minority in a sport, where a lot of us aren’t, to where we don’t get a fair shake.

I felt that when someone is costing you a possibility of $1.4 million, it pisses you off. I know a lot of people say, well, she shouldn’t have said that and she shouldn’t have — you don’t know what somebody should do in a split-second decision. We do it all the time in our personal life, but we judge everybody so harshly.

BN: I saw that your co-host, JP, once said, ‘Brian and I usually are talking sports over a few drinks and that’s exactly the vibe that we will bring to the show. Without the drinks mostly.’ Is that a good description of what your show is like?

BM: It is because the thing of it, he and I are real friends. The thing that people don’t get, when I’ll say stuff about the Commanders in this town, people are like well you played for them. What the hell does that mean? If I get mad at my brothers and sisters, I get mad at my mom and dad, get mad at my kids sometimes, why can’t I get mad at the football team?

So JP and I are friends, and both of us are loud and we talk a lot and we’re opinionated. Sometimes we do get into disagreements and things like that. We speak on it, and then guess what, we go right and have a beer together. That’s how life is. We don’t agree all the time, but we still understand that we’re friends.

BN: Let’s say over the next five years, what do you think would make you happiest as far as your job and where you’re at?

BM: I love the things that I do. I could see myself beginning to do a podcast. My show, we kind of focus on football a lot more. I’ve always fought, when I first started doing media, to talk about every sport. I told them I didn’t want to be typecast. Then it evolved into this because I know some of the shows on my station, they talk about different things.

The show after me, they have a lot of baseball focus, but they talk about other stuff. We mention things in a segment, maybe two at the most, but we’re normally on the football team. I would love to be talking about a lot of different things and just, I guess, expanding the amount of people that can hear what you say.

I watch a lot of media and I believe that a lot of people don’t speak the truth. A lot of media to me is about bits and trying to get people to click. The things that my friends and I discuss is when we know the person is truthful, and it’s also impactful and has given us stuff that helps us, we’ll listen to that before we listen to the person that gives you these outlandish statements and they can’t have anything to back it up. I would try to do something like that.

BN: It sounds like you’re pretty well set in D.C. What if there was a fancy offer from somewhere else, would you consider it?

BM: You know what, I would consider it now. Early on, I never considered it because I am truly a family guy. My son is older, he’s 33 now. My daughters are 28, 22 and 20. Now that my baby is at the point where she can basically go and fend for herself, I don’t have to be there all the time. I don’t have a problem traveling.

Because I played football and I found out that I missed a lot of my son and my oldest daughter’s lives. I was like, make sure I’m around the other ones as they grew up. If something comes now I don’t have an issue doing it because if I have to go somewhere and do something, they could come see me.

They travel all the time anyway, so it would probably work at that point. I’ve always loved being able to go home, and they can see me daily or nightly or whatever. I got three out of college. They all three have jobs. And I got one that’s a junior, so I think I’m doing a good job with that.

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