Stanford's season-opening football game Friday night against Kansas State signifies a beginning in many ways, especially for players like new starting quarterback Ryan Burns and 2015 AP Player of the Year Christian McCaffrey, who embarks on what promises to be another memorable season.
But the game also marks an ending.
Robert Mitchell will be attending his final game on the Stanford sideline.
Few outside the football program know Mitchell, but many would recognize him. Mitchell has been a fixture around the football corridors since 2002 as a volunteer, helping out wherever he can, by passing out water bottles during practice or moving equipment.
The soft-spoken Mitchell doesn't reveal much about himself, but his story is compelling.
In 1979, when Robert was 2, a drunk driver barreled into a car driven by Robert's uncle. Robert was thrown into the air, and landed underneath the other vehicle, which dragged him another 20-30 yards before Robert was dislodged and the driver sped off.
Robert suffered permanent brain damage.
Mitchell, who was born at Stanford Hospital, eventually gravitated toward the Cardinal. Since then, current and former members of Stanford's staff have taken him under their wing -- athletic trainer Steve Bartlinski, equipment room supply coordinator Perry Archibald, former equipment manager Gary Hazelitt, and former video producer Jon Oswald, among others.
Each day, Mitchell, 39, begins the long commute from San Jose on public transportation -- busses, trains, and Stanford's Marguerite shuttle.
He does so without complaint. In fact, it's been a joy.
"I really, really love football," Mitchell said in a 2012 interview. "Without football in my life, I don't know what I'd do."
Not only did Mitchell love being around the football team, he found a calling. He began taking classes at San Jose City College to become a certified athletic trainer.
"I don't care how long it takes me, I'm going to go through it," he said. "And nothing is going to stop me ... I'm just trying not to give up."
However, Mitchell will face an obstacle to that quest when he leaves next week for Memphis, Tennessee, where he will live with relatives. He will be missed.
David Shaw, Stanford's Director of Football, paid tribute to Mitchell at Monday's press conference.
"Robert's one of those individuals who has every right and every justification to be unhappy, to be angry, to have resentment," Shaw said. "And every single day, he just comes and works. He's positive, and guys look at him as part of our team.
"When he talks about the football team, he says 'we'. He doesn't say, 'you guys.' We all appreciate that."
As Mitchell once said, "I'm trying to be an inspiration to this team and people in general. It takes an inspiration to do the type of things that these guys are doing. Especially when they're in class, they need all the inspiration they can get. So do I."
Suffice to say, Mitchell has been an inspiration to all who know him.
"It's going to be a little strange without him," Shaw said. "But at the same time, I'm happy for him as he moves on to another chapter of his life. We'll enjoy this last week with him."
In addition to honoring Mitchell at a pre-game tailgate, he's also the inspiration to host 56 other developmentally delayed young adults from the San Mateo County Office of Education at the tailgate party who are all striving to be able to find meaningful "work/jobs" like Robert in our community.