SALT LAKE CITY — When Miami reporters asked Scott Mitchell in 1990 if he thought he could become the backup to Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, Mitchell admitted to higher aspirations.
He said he wanted to be the starter.
His first pass after subbing for an injured Marino in 1993 was intercepted for a touchdown, yet he threw two touchdowns that day to lead the Dolphins to a win over Cleveland.
In 2000, his career winding down, he was asked if his situation with Cincinnati was ideal. Hardly.
“I’m not here to just country-club it and be a backup and have a good life,” he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I still want to play.”
It’s easy to see Mitchell loves a challenge. He’s a goal-type guy. This is the man who led Utah to a 57-28 win over BYU in an era when the Utes won just two of 21 games against the Cougars. That’s why he’s a serious contender to win his next big outing, an appearance on the television reality show “The Biggest Loser.”
Mitchell is back in the game, so to speak. The show’s objective is for someone to lose more weight than the other contestants and be declared the winner. Participants set goals, hit targets and wow audiences with their courage and determination.
Or lack thereof.
This appears to be a Mitchell-type project. He took on the legend of Marino, now he’s taking on McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. A few years ago, he left his thriving land development business in Florida and moved to Springville, agreeing to coach his hometown football team. A lot of his talks to the team involved dedication, discipline and desire.
At 366 pounds, he could be mistaken for an offensive lineman. He’s 40 pounds heavier than any Detroit lineman in the mid-1990s. He’s also 135 pounds above his college weight.
Not everyone succeeds on the weight-based reality show. Rulon Gardner, the former Olympic gold medalist, tried but dropped out. A No. 93 draft pick, Mitchell ended up with 66 starts in 12 seasons, passing for more than 14,000 yards. Now he’s a participant in the Super Bowl of diet programs. A shirttail relative to LaVell Edwards, he chose Utah for his college career, where he still holds school marks for the most passing yards in a game, season and career and most touchdowns in a career. He led the nation in passing yards and passing touchdowns in 1988.
He even completed a throw to himself for a respectable gain after drilling the ball off a lineman’s helmet and catching it. It was a metaphor for his life, really, making the most out of the situation.
After being out of the NFL a year, Mitchell found himself working out at a park in 2002, throwing practice pitches into a net. No offers were on the table. Suddenly the reality struck him that his career was over.
He sat on the ground and cried.
As he tells the story, a thought crossed his mind that afternoon.
“I realized I could be anything in the world that I wanted to be — except an NFL quarterback,” he said a few months ago.
To use culinary language, if the asphalt pie is unavailable, try the molten chocolate cake.
Better yet, try neither.
Just become a winner on “Biggest Loser.”
Mitchell, who wants his health to be good to benefit his family, has made his call. It’s a bodacious one, to be sure. Not every ex-quarterback wants to be on a weight-loss show.
When he first arrived in Miami, the team carried two quarterbacks. It already had the nearly indestructible Marino and Scott Secules, a third-year player who had appeared in 11 NFL games.
Mitchell nevertheless packed everything he owned into a U-Haul, drove to Miami and signed a two-year lease on an apartment. Returning home in defeat wasn’t in his playbook.
I don’t just see him winning the “Biggest Loser” competition.
I see him dancing in the end zone.
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