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"No boundaries" for Lady Vols manager Mitchell

11:14 AM, Mar 8, 2013   |    comments
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Chad Mitchell grew up a fan of the Tennessee Lady Vols like many other people in East Tennessee.

Unlike most of those fans, Chad got the chance to be a part of the team. 

Chad earned an internship through the University's Futures Program and served as a team manager.  He bonded with the players and the coaches.

"It's been my dream to be a part of this team," said Chad.  "For them to accept me for who I am, with the Down's Syndrome that I have."

Yes, Chad has Down's Syndrome.  It wasn't long ago there would have been no opportunity for him to be a manager because there would have been little to no chance for him to attend college.

"When he was given to us 25 years ago," said Chad's father, Richard Mitchell, "we didn't know what.  And some people were putting restraints on future goals, but we have not.  We've just let what he can do and do.  If a door opens, let's see what we can do to get through it."

Chad deals with the challenges of his life in a relentlessly positive way, nurtured by his deep faith.

"I sing praises to God in the morning before I come to school to thank Him for what sorta He has for me," Chad said.

Faith is a theme of the Mitchell family, including his best friend, his younger sister Caroline, now a student at Belmont.

"Before Caroline was born," said Cindy Mitchell, Chad and Caroline's mother, "we prayed for her that God would give us someone to help us, someone to help Chad have a friend and a sibling, and our prayers were answered."

"The best sister I ever had," jokes Chad.

"The only sister he's ever had," answered Caroline.  "Not much to compare to."

Then Caroline turned serious.  "He reaches people much more than I ever could, just with his faith and how the Lord shows through him."

That impact carried over into his new line of work as manager, touching the Lady Vols.

"No matter what kind of day he's having," said senior Taber Spani, "I would never know.  He always is smiling, he's always wanting to know how you're doing and he's always positive.  Just that, literally living every second of every day."

Chad's job with the team is to take care of the players.  He helps in pre-game warmups, and is ready with a towell and something to drink when they come off the floor during the games.

There's always one or more members of the Mitchell family sitting in the stands behind the bench watching him work.

"Proud that he is able to do what he can do," Cindy Mitchell said, "and that he works so hard.  He's very diligent in his job."

His energy, work ethic and love for the Lady Vols has certainly impressed his big boss, Lady Vols Head Coach Holly Warlick.

"I think he shows there's no boundaries," Warlick said.  "He can come out and do things just like any other manager, person.  I think he takes his job seriously and he has fun at it.  So, I think he's an example of you can love what you do because he loves coming out here and helping us and we love him being around."

Chad was given an extra duty before the Lady Vols final home game against Texas A&M.  Warlick gave him the floor in the locker room for part of the pre-game speech before that SEC title-clinching win.

"He just said take one possession at a time," said Holly.  "Your destiny is in your own hands and go out and get it.  So, it was awesome.  It was really, really awesome."

"You know, he had some great basketball pointers and he was pumping us up and telling us what to do," added Spani.

"It was great," said sister Caroline.  "It was so fun.  It was a fun game, and a good game, right?"

"Yes, good game and just need to get better each and every week."

You can tell Chad has been paying attention when the coaches were talking.

After the celebration for the SEC regular season title, Chad and father Richard posed for a picture with Warlick.  It gave a beaming father a moment to say thank you.

"You do not know the excitement that one boy has to be a part of this," Richard told Warlick, "But it's immeasurable or I said priceless to a mom and dad.  It can't be matched to anything."

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