By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
Quintin Mikell is doing for Philadelphia Eagles’ players what he just did for himself.
In his first year as the team’s Director of Player Engagement, Mikell is helping players deal with the present, while also helping them prepare for the future.
“This position has been around a while, but it’s changed over the years,’’ Mikell said. “It’s different now in that it used to be a former player who would just kind of be around if you needed something. Now, it’s development, just as it says ‘player development.’ My job is trying to help, not just our young players, but any of our players, develop on and off the field. If it’s a rookie, it’s getting them used to the NFL life, the different stresses and ups and downs you go through; to a guy that’s been in the league for a couple years but still isn’t sure where he is. Maybe he wants to start getting ready for his exit. What should he do? How should he plan? And it goes all the way to the guy who is on the way out and I’m helping them transition to life after the game.’’
Mikell came to the Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of Boise State in 2004. He made his mark on special teams before developing into a Pro Bowl safety. He left as an unrestricted free agent for the St. Louis Rams in 2011, played two years there and his final season for the Carolina Panthers in 2013.
After two years trying to figure out what he wanted to do — he worked in the media for a year, then did the coaching internship with the Eagles in 2014 — he landed the Player Engagement job with the Eagles this spring and couldn’t be happier.
“I love the game,’’ Mikell said. “I thoroughly enjoy being around it. I was fortunate this position became available. I thought about coaching, but not necessarily at this level. Maybe as a high school coach, and that’s still an option, but this job became available and it was perfect.’’
As a player, Mikell did think about his future after the game was over and took advantage of the programs the NFL provides.
“I used the NFL programs to go back and get my degree,” he said. “I got resumes and did all the things I was supposed to do. But even saying all that, it wasn’t easy. This is my first job. I had to learn a lot. I had to write express sheets, Power Points, I’m still learning all of that. Being on this side now, I can see all of that. There’s a learning curve. The easy part for me is the football part, being around the guys. The harder part is the organizational part, writing reports and all of that. But I’m getting there.’’
Mikell is there for the players now, too, not just for the future. If they need advice on the areas, places to go, or not to go, where to live, almost anything.
“Any time I can help them do something, even finding a baby-sitting service, I’m there,’’ he said. “Next year I want to put out a welcome guide for our new players — just listing the best restaurants, what area has good schools, all of those kinds of things.’’
Mikell said he looked around the league and talked to other Player Engagement directors for advice. Green Bay’s long-time director Rob Davis was one he said showed him the right way to do things.
“You look at the Packers and how they do things,’’ Mikell said. “They are really into development. They do it right. I learned a lot from Rob.’’
Now he wants to put it into effect.
“The toughest part in my position is players never want to think they’re at the end,’’ Mikell said. “There are always guys who probably should retire but come back because they think they can still play another year or two. You have to make guys understand it’s not going to last forever and you have to prepare.’’