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Keith Johnson, Deseret News
Scott Mitchell, an ex-NFL player and former University of Utah star from Springville, holds practice at Springville High, where he is the new head coach.

SPRINGVILLE — Soon after moving back to Utah last spring with his wife and two young children, the days became long for Scott Mitchell.

On most days he leaves home before 7 a.m. and returns around 9 p.m. The portable filing cabinet that sits on his truck's back seat continues to get thicker with notes and documents. His to-do list is growing rather than shrinking.

Nowadays, instead of watching Disney World's fireworks from his front porch every night, Mitchell is picking up blocking pads off the grass and hauling them back to storage.

This never-ending workload and minimum-wage salary that comes with being a high school football coach is what many thought would have the former Utah Ute and NFL quarterback quickly second-guessing his decision to leave his comfortable lifestyle and upscale Orlando neighborhood for a thankless job of working with teen athletes in his former hometown. However, this doesn't seem to be the case.

"I know what it takes, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes," Mitchell said after a recent practice. "I'm here and I'm committed to doing whatever I have to to be successful at it. I'm not afraid of this. It's not something I'm not used to doing and it's not something I'm uncomfortable with. I'm willing and capable of spending a lot of time with this, and I'm OK with that."

The former Springville alumnus, who led the Red Devils to a state title in 1986 before moving on to star at Utah and with four teams in 12 NFL seasons, is already earning praise from comrades.

"I think he really loves this," said former Springville coach Doug Bills, now the team's defensive coordinator. "He's going to be a great coach. He's great with the kids and I think they love having him as their coach."

When Mitchell first showed interest in Springville's head coaching job two years ago, the timing wasn't right because of commitments he had in Florida. When the job opened again last winter, the timing was much better. He was hired in February.

"We really made it a matter of being a family decision and prayer, and we really felt good about coming out here," he said. "It took a lot of personal time and thought, but from the very first day since we've been out here it's felt good and it just hasn't changed."

Besides providing a new environment for his family, the new job is also giving Mitchell a chance to fulfill his next desire in football.

"I've always wanted to coach, but I've always wanted to coach in the right setting. And this is probably one of the very few settings where I would consider coaching," he said.

"I like bringing people together, which is what you do as a quarterback. You orchestrate it all. And as a head coach you have to bring all the coaches together, you have to have a vision and you have to bring all these players together. I really like that. I really enjoy that. And to do it in a place where I grew up and to have a vision of where I want this program to go. This is just a great place to be."

Mainly, Mitchell said he wanted a chance to work with young people and have a positive influence on their lives. In that aspect, he's already being rewarded.

"There's these little moments, every day. And the moment is you connect with these kids. I've been in their homes and I've talked with them collectively. And there is something really satisfying about touching someone's life and connecting with them. And I really feel it when it happens. These moments are very special moments," Mitchell said.

And he's learned that all that kids want in return is a little honesty and sincerity.

"They don't want someone who is here on some power trip and they don't want someone who doesn't want to be here and who cares less about kids. Unless you are true to them and you really care about them, they'll turn on you and revolt against you just like that," said Mitchell, snapping his fingers.

Since taking his new post, Mitchell has developed and documented an ambitious long-range plan for Springville's football program. But even though he has high expectations, and knows others do as well, he recognizes that his career and experience guarantee nothing.

"The first thing I said when I got here was that just because I played in the NFL doesn't mean we're going to win any games. But certainly having had that experience is a huge help," he said. "What matters now is how we prepare, how we coach and how we perform on each game day. That's what is going to help us win."

Mitchell is certainly aware that he's going to have critics and skeptics who question his motives and commitment. However, he's not too concerned with what others are predicting for his new career.

"I truly am excited and I love every minute of being here coaching. And I could care less what people think, because I don't feel this pressure and I don't feel this expectation. I'm just here engrossed in this 100 percent. ... I'm invested in these kids and I'm invested in this program. And all I care about is that they have a great experience being part of this program," he said.


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