Bobby Mitchell, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983 after playing halfback for the Cleveland Browns and as a flanker with the Washington Redskins, died on April 5, 2020. Mitchell, who was the Redskins’ first African-American player, was 84. A cause of death was not immediately revealed.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame released a statement following his passing: “Bobby Mitchell passed away Sunday afternoon at the age of 84. Mitchell was a dominant player with exceptional speed, balance, and agility. His 11 season in the National Football league were split between the Cleveland Browns (1958-1961) and the Washington Redskins (1962-1968) as a flanker. Mitchell was named All-NFL three times and played in four Pro Bowls.”
The statement also said the Hall of Fame flag will fly at half-mast in his honor. During his career, Mitchell amassed 14,078 combined net yards, scored 91 touchdowns, caught 521 passes and had eight kick returns for touchdowns.
David Baker, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said, “The Entire Pro Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Bobby Mitchell. The Game lost a true legend today. Bobby was an incredible player, a talented executive, and a real gentleman to everyone with whom he worked or competed against. His wife Gwen, and their entire family remain in our thoughts and prayers.”
Mitchell, who was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on June 6, 1935, was living with his wife Gwen in Washington, D.C., at the time of his death. He is survived by Gwen and their two children, Robert Junior and Terry.
Mitchell Was the First African-American Player to Sign With the Washington Redskins
Mitchell broke barriers when Paul Brown traded him to Washington, where he played for the Redskins beginning in 1962. He became the franchise’s first African American on the team’s roster.
NBC Washington reporter Julie Donaldson wrote on Twitter after his passing, “At times it is hard to imagine another’s struggle. The courage their life demanded. Honored to have met Bobby Mitchell many times. We can all learn from his journey.”
After retiring from the NFL in 1968, Mitchell stayed with the Washington Redskins in a front-office role. Under head coach Vince Lombardi, he was the team’s pro scout and eventually became the Redskins’ assistant general manager until 2003.
NFL Network’s Charley Casserly tweeted, “So sorry to hear of the passing former
@Redskins Bobby Mitchell. I worked with Bobby for 23 years. He was a friend and mentor. What I remember most was his guidance and support when I was an Intern. He was a Hall of Famer on the field and off!”
In High School, Bobby Mitchell Was Offered a Baseball Contract by the St. Louis Cardinals
While a student at Langston High School, Mitchell ran track in the spring but also played baseball, a sport at which he excelled. In fact, Mitchell was so good at baseball, he was given a contract to play with the St. Louis Cardinals, which he turned down to play football at the University of Illinois.
While playing for the Fighting Illini, Mitchell was also a decorated runner on the college’s track team and debated whether or not he wanted to train for the 1960 Olympics. However, in 1958, he was selected in the 7th round of the NFL draft by the Browns.