Many Washington Redskins fans are young and do not remember the “Glory Years” of our Washington Redskins nor do they know about some of the Ring of Fame legends. Bobby Mitchell is one player all Redskins fans should know about.
I have to take you back to the past to a time in our country when everything in life was separated between “white” and “colored.” Segregation was the law of the land and this was especially true in the southern states. Good Americans were trying to change those injustices and sports and music were two avenues where black people could prove they were equal or even better. Our owner of the Washington Redskins was the last to racially integrate his NFL team. Northern teams like the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns had “color-blind” coaches and front offices.
Bobby Mitchell was a great athlete. He set records in high school and college. He even set an indoor world record for low hurdles – 70 yards in 7.7 seconds! Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns who already had famous Jim Brown playing for him wanted Mitchell to join Brown in the backfield.
Back in those days, teams passed less and ran more. Most teams had two or three backs, called fullback, halfback, tailback or flanker. A flanker is actually a receiver not on the line of scrimmage but instead in the backfield so he can get a running start and not get bumped the first five yards like wideouts.
The Cleveland Browns drafted Bobby Mitchell and from 1958 to 1961, he and Jim Brown had the best running combination in the AFL, NFL. Against our Washington Redskins, Mitchell ran for 232 yards including a 90-yard run from scrimmage. That impressed our owner, Marshall. He was under pressure from both the federal government and Washington newspapers to desegregate the team anyway.
George Preston Marshall was a product of his day and time. He felt his Washington Redskins were a southern team and he held racist views like many did back in those days. He was, however, a brilliant business man. Marshall drafted his first Negro player, Ernie Davis, but he still wanted Bobby Mitchell so he worked out an under-the-table trade sending Ernie Davis to Cleveland in exchange for Bobby Mitchell and Leroy Jackson to play for the Redskins.
Head Coach Bill McPeak positioned Bobby Mitchell as a flanker. In his first game as a Washington Redskin, Mitchell ran back a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys! He led the league with 11 touchdowns, 72 catches, and 1,384 yards. He was selected to the Pro Bowl. You can “Google” Bobby Mitchell to find out more of his many accomplishments as a player. Mitchell was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
He retired when Vince Lombardi became the head coach in 1969, but “color-blind” Lombardi knew Bobby Mitchell was special so he made him a pro scout. Mitchell later worked his way up to Assistant General Manager of the Washington Redskins. Mitchell spent 40 years of his life with the Washington Redskins. One of the worst injustices was he was passed over for General Manager by owner Jack Kent Cooke in 1998. He had already been passed over in 1978. It is my opinion that Bobby Mitchell would have been a fantastic General Manager. He mastered everything he ever did.
Older and all-weather Washington Redskins fans know Bobby Mitchell has done many things for the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area. These include his golf program called the Bobby Mitchell Hall of Fame Classic that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Just to mention a few more examples of his big heart and “giving back” are his involvement with the NAACP, United Negro College Fund, Howard University Cancer Research Advisory Committee, American Lung Association of DC, Martin Luther King Holiday Commission, Boys Club of Washington, and the National Urban League. He opened doors of opportunity for many inner-city boys.
So, Redskins fans, you can see on many levels how Bobby Mitchell deserves our respect and admiration.
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