Mitchell Perlmutter, Class of 1985, recalls his days as an All-County football player, proves academic excellence is within the individual not the institution, and gives examples of how lessons learned in football enable him to compete in every case he litigates.
Q: It’s been a while since you played for the Cardinals. What are some of your fondest recollections about those days?
A: This week, with two-a-days starting, I can recall the fun and hard work of playing football. Looking back, those were rewarding but really hard days. Heat, all kinds of weather, coaches screaming at you, going to bed sore, waking up exhausted and having to do it all again – those who survive all that football presents them get a firsthand lesson in perseverance.
Q: Any specific plays come to mind from those days playing under Coach Plumm?
A: Always. We were playing Bergenfield my senior year and they - like everyone we played - had more players and were a bigger school that just entered the NBIL from a larger division. Most of our starters were two-way players. I caught a tight-end cross and ran seventy yards down the A-Field at Ketler - home of geese and Cardinals - for an early TD. We never looked back. While we eventually lost in round one of the playoffs and I played most of the season hurt, my last year as a Cardinal was awesome.
Q: At six –foot –four you were a highly recruited student-athlete. What made you choose Yale?
A: I had football offers from most of the Ivies and since academics was the most important thing to me it was a no-brainer to go to Yale. It was the best place for me.
Q: How did college football differ from playing in high school?
A: Everyone is bigger and faster. More is expected from you and it's tougher because there are just more good players competing for spots. There is a lot more preparation for the game. But high school definitely prepares you for it. I played at defensive tackle my freshman year, but I developed a serious back issue that was undetected, possibly from birth, so that ended my playing career.
Q: So, you went from hitting running backs to hitting the books full time?
A: No. I stopped playing football because I didn’t want to risk more serious injury through the rigors of contact. I threw the shot put and lettered in track to satisfy my desire to compete while still capitalizing on great schooling. I was able to participate in a lot of other activities Yale offered that I would not have had time for as a football player.
Q: You’re a prominent attorney and partner in a reputable Jersey City law firm. What’s tougher, winning in the court room or on the football field?
A: Football teaches you to compete, and you have to know how to be compete to be an effective attorney. I played other sports but none compared to football in terms of the level of commitment you had to give if you wanted to win. The same is true in litigation. You have to know how to battle back against a tough opponent. We don't hit each other but the idea is the same. And knowing that you can perform in tough conditions at practice and in games gives you the confidence in other areas. There are so many other parallels to football and practicing law; preparing for your opponent and walking through your plan; respecting your opponent and never taking anything for granted; dealing with judges; dealing with referees; taking on bigger opponents as the underdog or competing against the big firms that big companies can throw at you. I would not be the lawyer I am today if it wasn’t for the tenacity I learned to develop playing football.
Great stuff, Mitch, thanks for taking the time to provide these valuable insights and for your continued support of Cardinals football.