How would you like to be coached through your workout by a former NFL player?
Exactly. Sounds intimidating.
What about one with thick, curly hair that falls past his shoulders?
Now that’s just downright scary.
But former Buffalo Bills linebacker Kawika Mitchell is anything but scary off the football field. In fact, in his post-NFL life, he’s dedicated himself to his family, a number of charities, and a brand new business venture that lies at the cross between his passion for sports and a commitment to inspiring others.
“I’m a simple man,” Mitchell said. “Opening a gym is something I’ve always wanted to do and saw myself doing after I retired. I like helping people.”
It's part of the reason Mitchell founded Competitor Gym, a two-week-old training center he owns and manages in his lifelong home in Central Florida. The facility caters to a broad range of athletes, from professionals to kids trying to make their high school teams.
“We have clients on the professional level,” he said, “but we do a lot with helping people try to live a healthy life, lose weight, increase mobility, or do post physical therapy work.”
For Mitchell and his team of ‘coaches,’ who he says do much of the day-to-day training, the goal is not to intimidate, but to motivate towards each athlete's personal goals.
As someone who spent eight years in the NFL and has a Super Bowl title with the New York Giants in 2007, Mitchell knows a thing or two about reaching personal goals. The now 33 year-old was signed in free agency by the Bills in 2008, playing out two seasons of a five-year deal with the team before his career ended prematurely because of an injury.
“I definitely miss the game,” he said. “There are other things I’m getting into and I’m spending more time with my family. The transition was hard at first, but I don’t have a lot to complain about.”
Mitchell’s son Lewai on the other hand, has a bone to pick with dad about his retirement.
“It’s been an adjustment for my son more than anybody,” Mitchell said jokingly, “probably more than myself. He grew up – from the time he was born right before the Draft – hanging out with guys like (former Bills) Marshawn Lynch and Marcus Stroud. He misses it more than I do.”
Perks of having an active NFL dad aside, Mitchell is now able to spend more time with Lewai and daughter Eliza and watch them start their own athletic careers.
Juggling the elements of life after the big leagues with optimism, this ‘simple man’ with an intimidating mane seems to have found a niche only a few years removed from his days on the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium.