ALAMEDA — Safety Mike Mitchell sounded disappointed.
The man who coached him for four years in college was concerned.
"I'm going to have to give him a call," Ohio University defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow said.
Mitchell will be all dressed up with no one to hit today when the Raiders open a three-day minicamp at their practice facility.
The Raiders will get their first on-field look at their second-round draft pick, but minicamps are strictly noncontact, a detail Mitchell seemed surprised to learn during a recent phone interview.
"Really?" Mitchell said. "I was looking forward to getting out there and mixing it up."
The reaction made Burrow chuckle, as well as a promise to phone Mitchell to make sure he didn't get carried away as he began to fulfill a lifelong dream.
Mitchell became a Raider sooner than most expected because of his size (6-feet, 220 pounds) and 4.43-second time in the 40-yard dash — none of which would have counted for much if not for his lust for contact.
"We had a three-time All-(Mid-America Conference) wideout who was 6-5, 210 pounds, and (Mitchell) knocked the absolute (bleep) out of him," Central Michigan wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni said. "I thought he killed him."
Mitchell remembers the hit but said it wasn't one of the three "knockouts" he referred to on his first conference call with Bay Area reporters.
"When I say 'knockout,' I mean they literally had to break the salt out on him," Mitchell said.
When the Raiders took Mitchell No. 47 overall April 25, there were draft analysts in need of some smelling salts. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who had Mitchell going in the seventh round or as a free agent, seemed to take it as a personal affront.
The NFL Network's Mike Mayock, who correctly forecast the Raiders' first pick of wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, never saw it coming, either. Mayock apologized when told Mitchell was on the radar screen of the Chicago Bears and admitted he'd never seen film of Mitchell in action.
All of which seemed to bother Mitchell, well, not at all.
"What did they say?" Mitchell said. "I really don't know. Once I got drafted, I went back to work."
Kent State offensive coordinator A.J. Pratt said, "I'm not an NFL scout, and I haven't been around Mitchell enough to know how he'll do on Sundays, but I do know he was a very good player and their best defensive back."
Said Central Michigan's Azzanni: "From a wide receiver's perspective, he'd come off the hash and hit you. He's a big, thick kid, he hit the weights hard, and he plays with a certain mentality. I'm surprised he was drafted in the second round, but I'm not surprised he was drafted."
Mitchell told Bay Area reporters after he was drafted that he patterned his game after heavy hitters such as Jack Tatum and Ronnie Lott. Burrow calls him a throwback and said getting Mitchell to understand that interceptions and pass defense are as important as getting a big hit took some time.
"Each year he got better at tracking the ball and going and getting it, and I think where he made his biggest strides this season was working on getting low and making the tackle instead of going in pad high all the time and looking for the big hit," Burrow said.
Mitchell worked tirelessly at improving his speed, and although he pulled a hamstring at his Ohio University Pro Day, he rehabbed in 25 days and had another session at his high school in Kentucky.
"He really put on a show," said Dale Mueller, his high school coach who is convinced the Raiders got wind of someone taking Mitchell before they would get another chance.
Neither Mitchell nor Mueller remembers the Raiders being at the workout, although they were sent a DVD. Mueller recalls filling out a detailed questionnaire from the Raiders.
"All he's ever wanted to do is play in the NFL. It's interesting because he's a really nice guy, religious, the kind of guy you'd want baby-sitting your children or helping your grandmother across the street," Mueller said. "But he is just a vicious football player."
Contact Jerry McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.