Great stuff from Patriots Wide Receiver Malcolm Mitchell who played a big role in helping the Pats win Super Bowl LI as a rookie.
1. Mitchell’s advice for Harry: One of the hot-button questions as the Patriots return from the bye for the final seven games of the season is how much rookie receiver N’Keal Harry might contribute, starting Sunday at the Philadelphia Eagles.
Quarterback Tom Brady recently said that it comes down to dependability and trust, pointing out that one needs only to look at recent Super Bowls to see who was on the field in the most critical situations.
The last rookie receiver to be in that spot was Malcolm Mitchell, whose exemplary second half helped the Patriots come back from a 28-3 second-half deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. I asked Mitchell what advice he might give to Harry when reflecting on his own experience:
- The message: “I earned that through practice, not through games. Way before I got on the field, I had to execute in practice consistently. Every day needs to be your best. Every rep needs to be 100 percent, I don’t care what you’re doing.”
- Challenge of earning Brady’s trust: “It took months, and it took some tough, constructive criticism from him, and from coaches. I had to embrace it and say, ‘I won’t allow it to happen again. No repeat errors.’ The thing I would tell [Harry] is consistency in everything you do, and I promise you the opportunities will come. Don’t worry about today; I remember my rookie season, the first six games, I didn’t do anything. It wasn’t until I earned that trust, through constant repetition and execution of plays in practice, that I started to get those opportunities.”
- Having thick skin toward criticism: “It almost made me cry one day. [Brady] came into the receiver room, and he wasn’t talking about me specifically but just our performance overall, and there was a clip of me on there when he was talking about receivers. Of course, I took it personally because it was me. I walked out of that receiver room and my heart was broken. I was like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this.’ It was in training camp. That night, I laid down and said, ‘That will never happen again. He will never call me out like that again. There will be no self-inflicted wounds.'”
- Learn the big picture: “One thing you’re curious about, from the outside looking in with a rookie, is how much of the playbook do they know? Do they only know their spot? Or the three spots on the field? I knew more than one spot. My advice would be learn conceptually, not individually, and more opportunities will come, because players get hurt weekly. If you can step in to ‘X’, ‘Z’, ‘Y’, whatever spot it is, it can open more opportunities you didn’t know exist.”