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Playing Youth Football Taught Quintin Mikell the Importance of Working as a Team

Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.

Quintin Mikell had a quick response when asked about first his youth football team in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

"We won the championship," he said with a laugh.

But Mikell said he learned a lot on those first few youth teams — lessons that ended up being more important than championship hardware.

"We learned teamwork, how to work together, be a part of a team," he said. "Everyone wants to be a star, right? Everyone wants to be the guy running the ball. Nobody wants to be the blocker.

"My first year I was a receiver and I was catching a lot of passes. My second year, they moved me to tight end and I was a blocker. It was hard.

"I learned, from my dad (the team's coach), to help the team the best way I could. So even though I wasn’t catching passes, we still won, and we won because I was helping the team by blocking."

Mikell started playing in sixth grade. When his family moved to Eugene, Oregon during his freshman year of high school, he became one of the top players at Willamette High School.

Eventually, Mikell earned a scholarship to Boise State University. After going undrafted in 2003, Mikell signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and flourished in the Eagles secondary. 

Mikell was a second-team All Pro in 2008 and 2010, and a Pro Bowler in 2009. He spent eight years in Philadelphia before stints on the St. Louis Rams and Carolina Panthers. 

Mikell retired after the 2013 season, and he currently coaches youth football in the Clearview area of southern New Jersey. 

He coaches his son, "Champ," in youth football and also helps out with the local high school team. With his players, Mikell uses the same fundamentals that he learned in Terre Haute.

"At the youth level, I don’t care how many games we win, or if we win the championship,’’ he said. “We’re going to play as a team, and we’re going to learn the game of football. We’re going to learn the fundamentals how to block, how to tackle, and how to do it the right way."

“We haven’t won a lot. But the kids are learning the game, and they’re having fun.’’

Coaching at the high school level, Mikell notices a big difference in the kids who played youth football growing up.

"When you play tackle as you grow up, you build up a lot of different things the right movements, the right stances, the right positioning," he said. "So when you get to high school, where it really matters to have the proper technique, the proper leverage, everything to not get injured it’s an easier transition for you."

Photo: AP/Brian Garfinkel​


  • NFL Players and Legends
  • Youth Football