This past week legendary Brother Rice High School (my alma mater), football coach Tom Mitchell passed. “Coach” was involved with the football program for 30 years before retiring in 1992 (my junior year), but Coach’s best work was off the field and in the hallways of Brother Rice High School as a guidance counselor and mentor to thousands of students.
For the record I was never a player for Coach or had him as a guidance counselor but I saw his effect none the less. He was guidance counselor for my best friend at Rice and I never saw a teacher take such interest and passion in every student and I come from a family of teachers.
Coach used to stand in the hallway at Rice in the morning and in between classes and greet everyone whether you one of his players or not, and he basically counseled every one there. If you were having a issues or bad day you knew you could talk to Coach and just him asking you how you were could make your day.
And to so many Rice students and thousands of alums, he was just that “Coach”, that is not a name to be taken lightly because he lived it. On the field, in the halls, so many of us owe so much because he took the time to care about every guy in that building.
Now granted Coach knew how to handle a football team and game plan. His teams won the 1981 6A state football title and runner up in 1985 and numerous Prep Bowl appearances. Many of his former players say besides their old man, Coach is right up there with the most influential men in their lives. I know the feeling, I have similar sentiments on the current principal Jim Antos whom taught me in two classes and I worked for as student worker and baseball equipment manager when he was freshman coach.
Coach’s biggest legacy outside of his reputation of maker of men is the football field on the campus of Brother Rice. It opened during my freshman year (1990), and prior to that the team and fans had to travel to the east side of Chicago to the shared field of Gately Field. To have first class facilities adjacent to the school raised the bar on Southside Catholic league football and took Rice to the next level in athletics.
I remember the next fall Rice hosted their first playoff football game versus Homewood Flossmoor and the pride was bursting out of the building. We were given a half day so we could attend the game which started early in the afternoon. I attended and though Rice lost, it was such a big deal to make the playoffs and have the game in the school’s backyard.
I think the best thing about Coach is though he is in no less than four hall of fames for coaching (on the state, city and catholic league level), is he never boasted, never had an ego, he led quietly but with such example that was not lost on anyone who met him.
I would be remiss not to mention the loss of one of his former players this week and as a classmate of mine Michael Bond.
Coach will lie in state at Brother Rice in the gym this Wednesday from 2-9, but his example and leadership will never be forgotten.