In the more than 10 years since he left the NFL, Keith Mitchell has undergone a transformation. Once a ball-hawking linebacker playing at the edge of control, Mitchell has found his inner calm through yoga.
According to a profile in
For The Win, Mitchell first discovered yoga following a serious spinal contusion sustained while playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The former Pro Bowler said he suffered from paralysis for about six months, during which time he began using meditation as part of his rehabilitation program.
Mitchell also adopted the practice of conscious breathing on the recommendation of a nurse. At the time, Mitchell was desperate for a source of healing. But once his physical abilities returned, Mitchell began taking an interest in yoga.
Meanwhile, his NFL career had been cut short by the injury. But in the aftermath of that profession, Mitchell found yoga to be a source of understanding the NFL experience. He now views the traditional views of masculinity -- which dominate NFL culture -- as a suppression of expression, and an emphasis on the "alpha male or gladiator in sports."
Part of Mitchell's current crusade is to connect with young boys and adult males alike to expand their conception of what it means to be a man. Meanwhile, he has become a sought-after yoga teacher, one who has become a sort of icon within the yoga community:
At a time when the NFL's hyper-masculine culture is under fire by society at large, Mitchell's story is particularly relevant. Once a willing participant in that ugly NFL mindset, Mitchell has found a much more rewarding happiness away from the field.