The 300: #17 Bobby Mitchell

Some players pass fleetingly through the NFL, but for a lucky few it becomes their entire life…

NFL CAREER

Cleveland Browns (1958-1961)

Washington Redskins (1962-1968)

Executive, Washington Redskins (1969-2002)

 

POSITION

Halfback/Fullback/Wingback

 

WHY IS HE IMPORTANT

Bobby Mitchell entered the NFL in 1958 when the Browns chose him in the seventh round of that year’s draft. He left it 44 years later, when he retired after forty years on the staff of the Redskins.

Playing at halfback, Mitchell was lucky enough to be paired with the great Jim Brown in Cleveland and for three seasons they were one of the most effective running back combinations in the NFL, Brown’s speed and elusiveness being perfectly complemented by Mitchell’s pass catching ability out of the backfield.

In 1962 the Browns traded Mitchell to the Redskins, where he became the first black player to suit up for the franchise (owner George Preston Marshall was a notorious racist) and where he was to remain for the rest of his working life. Initially they sought to take advantage of that catching ability by moving him to the flanker position that was popular in those days. In his six seasons in Washington he never failed to catch at least 58 passes a year, even when moved back to halfback. He became only the second player in NFL history to record a 99 yard pass play and in his first season with the team lead the League in touchdowns scored.

When Vince Lombardi took over as head coach in 1969 he was keen for Mitchell to keep playing, but the player felt that he was no longer able to perform at his usual high level and retired. At that time, he was second on the all-time list for career yards from scrimmage.

Mitchell remained at Washington as a scout, before moving into the front office team and eventually rising to assistant general manager. He retired under something of a cloud, complaining of being passed over for the general manager job on at least two occasions, but he remains a popular figure in NFL circles and hosts an annual charity golf tournament in Washington.

Richard O’Hagan

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Richard O'Hagan
Writer on such diverse topics as sport, music, theatre, law and politics. Author of 'Eddie the Sheep'. Supporter of underachieving teams, including the Chicago Bears from before that brief, heady, period in the mid-1980s when they were actually any good. All I want for Christmas is a Jim McMahon away shirt.
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    Some players pass fleetingly through the NFL, but for a lucky few it becomes their entire life… NFL CAREER Cleveland Browns (1958-1961) Washington R
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