Chargers help lead NFL’s diversity program in sports medicine

Chargers head athletic trainer Damon Mitchell, right, watches game action from the sideline.
Chargers head athletic trainer Damon Mitchell, right, watches game action from the sideline. He is a part of NFL’s diversity program for sports medicine.
(Ty Nowell / Los Angeles Chargers)

Chargers head athletic trainer Damon Mitchell laughs today about how he basically fell into the only profession he has ever known.

Now he is part of an NFL program trying to help others such as him discover the opportunities available beyond the traditional doctor’s office.

The Chargers are one of eight franchises participating in the Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative in 2022, the league announced Tuesday.


Each team will host two medical students at historically black colleges or universities for one-month rotations in September and October. The students will observe and engage in the treatment of players, on and off the field.

“Hopefully, this is something that will spark some interest,” said Mitchell, who graduated from Morgan State before beginning a career that has him entering his 24th season with the Chargers.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is happy to have the same playbook and coaches two seasons in a row, and on the other side of the ball, the defense has gotten much deeper.

After spending three years working part time for the team, Mitchell accepted a full-time position in 2001. He is in his sixth year as the Chargers’ head athletic trainer.

And it all started because he was looking for something to do when he began at Morgan State and decided he’d try to wrestle for the school as a walk-on.

There was only one problem, he was told: Morgan State had dropped its wrestling program.

While sitting in the office of the athletic director, Mitchell met the school’s athletic trainer, who persuaded him to give sports medicine a try. An eventual internship with the Philadelphia Eagles launched Mitchell’s journey to the NFL.

Through its “Coach and Front Office Accelerator,” the NFL is hopeful minorities will find more coaching, general manager and front-office jobs.

For someone who said he always thought he’d be a high school physical education teacher, Mitchell now finds himself trying to encourage others to consider following his path.

Mitchell called the league’s new diversity program “a unique opportunity to see how we work as an NFL team, see how doctors’ offices work when they work with us and how it all marries together.”