When the New England Patriots announced their initial 53-man roster for the upcoming season, two undrafted rookie players had made the cut. Special teamer Brenden Schooler and outside linebacker DaMarcus Mitchell were able to stick around despite going up against some talented competition at their respective spots.
Nonetheless, the roster cutdown deadline came and went with both remaining on the active roster throughout. That alone would have been memorable enough, but sharing the news with their families put the icing on the cake for the two youngsters.
“I called my mom and dad and told them. Called my grandparents. Called my friends. Those are the ones that believed in me since Day 1, that made countless sacrifices for me to be where I am today,” Schooler told reporters on Wednesday. “I thought it was fair that they found out, too. Called my girlfriend and told her. Just told as many people as I could.
Schooler entered the NFL off a busy college career. He spent time at three schools — Oregon, Arizona and Texas — and appeared in a combined 61 games while moving between safety and wide receiver.
The first four years of his college career were spent with the Ducks, where he played 40 games. Initially joining the team as a defensive back, he moved to offense ahead of his sophomore year; Schooler went on to catch 43 passes for 521 yards and four touchdowns over the next three seasons.
He entered the transfer portal in October 2019, briefly moved to Arizona, and reemerged as a Longhorn in August 2020. After a 12-catch, 140-yard campaign with two TDs, Schooler moved back to the defensive side of the ball as a super senior — setting the stage to enter the pro level.
He did just that after going undrafted, joining the Patriots in free agency. Despite his lack of draft pedigree, Schooler was able to leave his mark on the team: he developed into a five-unit special teamer and additionally looked solid as a part-time safety.
His performance in training camp and preseason allowed him to make the team, and to give his parents a phone call they will likely never forget.
“They were ecstatic,” Schooler said. “My mom was at work and she was freaking out. Her work friends were in the background going crazy, too. My dad had just gotten done with his football practice. He was going crazy in the car. So, everybody was pretty happy for me.”
The experience was a similar one for Mitchell, as he told ABC6 on Wednesday.
This. THIS is what it's all about.— Ian Steele (@IanSteeleABC6) August 31, 2022
After DaMarcus Mitchell made the Patriots, he heard words from his father he'd been waiting his whole life for.
"I'm proud of you."
"That was his first time telling me that... I saw him have tears in his eyes." @ABC6 @DaMarcus_M #ForeverNE pic.twitter.com/Ujr006iqmX
“My dad, he never really told me, ‘I’m proud of you, congratulations,’” Mitchell said. “Of course, he said it when I got to college but as far as ‘I’m proud of you’ this was his real first time telling me that. I’m not going to lie, that struck me because my dad never said that.”
Just like Schooler, Mitchell also had an eventful college career.
He joined Southwest Missouri Community College as a running back in 2018, but moved to the defensive side of the ball during his freshman year. Having being used at several positions, including as a part-time punter, Mitchell transferred to Purdue the following offseason.
In his subsequent two years as a Boilermaker, he appeared in 16 games and notched a combined 5.5 sacks, 59 tackles and three forced fumbles. His production did not allow him to get drafted, but it put him on the Patriots’ radar as a free agent addition.
Since then, he slowly played his way into the linebacker and special teams rotations. He never left them, and is now preparing to head into his first regular season as a member of New England’s 53-man squad — and a son who has made his father proud.
“I saw him have tears in his eyes. That took a toll on me,” Mitchell continued. “I’m sitting there looking at my dad, I’m like, ‘Man, I did it. I did it. I finally did it.’ He was like, ‘I know you did.’ I see him and he was like, ‘You have me about to cry.’ And I see him, I see his eyes water.’ And I’m like, ‘You don’t have to cry, man. You don’t have to cry.’”