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Game Changers 2014: Keith Mitchell

The NFL linebacker once lay paralyzed on the field—but refused to stay down for long.
Illustration: Sean McCabe

Keith Mitchell was fearless. But on the morning of a 2003 game against the Buffalo Bills, the Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker felt an inexplicable sense of dread.

In the first quarter, Mitchell tackled Bills running back Travis Henry and felt a searing pain down his spine—then nothing. Partially paralyzed, he’d suffered a spinal contusion; doctors were uncertain he’d ever walk again. “I was a trained warrior,” Mitchell says. “To have that taken away was terrifying.”

Mitchell’s will to defy his prognosis led him down an unusual road, to meditation, yoga, and philosophy—and within months he was on his feet. “I started lying flat on the floor to focus only on breathing from the diaphragm,” he says.

Today, Mitchell shares his message with anyone who needs help—regular folks, athletes, politicians, even celebrities. Since he taught her to meditate, Paris Hilton herself seems to have mellowed out. Miracles do happen. 

FIT FACT: “I’ve learned to raise the quality of foods I put into my body,” Mitchell says. “My motto is ‘eat to live,’ not ‘live to eat.’”


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