Browns Legend Bobby Mitchell Passes Away At Age 84

Pete Smith

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced that former Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins legend and inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame has passed away at the age of 84. Mitchell played with the Browns in the same backfield as fellow legend Jim Brown from 1958 to 1961, then finished his career with the Washington Redskins, playing wide receiver from 1962 to 1968.

The legendary Steve Sabol of NFL Films said of Mitchell in tandem with Jim Brown: "Bobby was sort of like filet mignon to Jim Brown's sirloin. Bobby was served up in smaller portions, but they were always very tasty."

Mitchell made All-NFL four times over the course of his career and was a sprinter in addition to being a football player at the University of Illinois. He ran a 9.6 in the 100 meters to clinch a championship in the Big Ten. He was a champion in the hurdles and was referred to as the fastest man in the NFL.

In four seasons with the Browns, Mitchell rushed for 2,297 yards at 5.4 yards per attempt while also contributing 1,462 yards receiving on 128 receptions and a total of 32 touchdowns on offense. He also returned kicks and punts for the Browns, returning three kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns.

Mitchell was involved in one of the most famous trades in NFL history. He was sent to the Washington Redskins for the top overall pick in the 1962 NFL Draft. Mitchell moved to wide receiver for the Redskins where he dominated for the next several years, but it was mandated that year that the Redskins, the last team to integrate African American players, would no longer allowed to be a whites-only team.

His efforts in civil rights went beyond the playing field, as he was one of the athletes along with Brown and a number of other notable African American athletes showing their support for Cassius Clay when he refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army to fight in Vietnam.

The Browns used the selection acquired in the trade for Mitchell to take Ernie Davis from Syracuse to pair up with one of his heroes and the reason he attended Syracuse, Jim Brown. Unfortunately, it was discovered that Davis was suffering from leukemia and never played for the Browns and would late die as a result.

In his first season with the Redskins, Mitchell set franchise records for receptions with 72 and receiving yards, 1,384, en route to helping the team improve their record by four wins from the previous season. He broke that record for receiving yards in 1963 with 1,463, which stood until 2005.

After retiring from playing, Mitchell worked for the Redskins organization for another three decades before he retired from the game entirely in 2003. Mitchell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983. Even for being as great as he was, Mitchell was ahead of his time and showed how different coaches could take the same player, use him completely differently and get outstanding results. In many ways, he represented not only what was great about football, but how great it could still become.