Twelve years later, the play sticks in
"I'd never seen anything like it," Mitchell said of the play that occurred early in the Ravens' victory over Denver in the 2000 playoffs. "Our fullback,
"Now, Sam was no King Kong. He looked like any guy on the street, but when he hit someone, he'd explode. Sam hit Bill so hard that (Romanowski's) helmet fell off and the pads inside of it flew out. Sam just laid him out. It was fun to watch – and it set the tone for the game."
The Ravens defeated Denver, 21-3 en route to the
But he can't explain the club's mid-season funk, when it went five straight games without scoring a touchdown, three of them losses. Mitchell missed two of those setbacks with an
"That (slump) was painful to watch," he said. "We kept waiting for (coach Brian) Billick to walk into the offensive meeting, raise hell and chew everyone's (butt) off. You'd expect him to freak out, but all he said was, 'It's going to end soon, and we'll score some touchdowns.'
"He was right."
Though a fixture on that title team, Mitchell had struggled early on. A fifth-round pick from Florida in 1997, he tore up his right knee in camp and sat out a season.
The next year, he started at center as the team christened Ravens (now M&T Bank) Stadium.
"All of the players loved the Jumbotron screen," Mitchell said. "In the huddle, the offensive linemen would watch replays to see what they'd done right or wrong. I remember an intense game (in 2000) when Trent smashed his finger in my face and screamed, 'Hey, hey, HEY! LOOK AT ME!' "
That was the last of Mitchell's four years in Baltimore. Championship ring — but no long-term contract — in hand, he signed instead with the
Now 38, he lives with his wife and two children in Charlotte, N.C., where Mitchell and his father own a firm that makes replacement triggers for hunting rifles.
He has shed 50 pounds off his playing weight, mindful of the health problems that plague many former players.
"I stopped eating for four people, for the sake of my heart and my joints," he said. "I sold my body (as an athlete), but I knew what I was doing, and that there would be repairs down the road.
"I'm just trying to to conserve the cartilage. We've only got so many steps in us, and I've used a lot of mine."
Last month, for the first time since he left town, Mitchell returned with his son Jack, 13, to watch the Ravens stomp the
"Jack is a huge
On the sideline, during warm-ups, he introduced his son to the Ravens linebacker, who autographed the Lewis jersey on Jack Mitchell's back.
"Then Ray and I hugged, and talked about the good times," Jeff Mitchell said.
Glancing at his son, he caught an expression of awe:
"Jack looked at me, like, 'Gee, dad, you really DO know these guys!' "