NFL pioneer, Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell dies at age 84

Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins

Hall of Famer Robert “Bobby” Cornelius Mitchell, the first black Washington Redskins player, dies at age 84 on Sunday, April 5.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell passed away at age 84 on Sunday, April 5.

Mitchell was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983. He played for both the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins. Washington was the last NFL team to integrate and Mitchell became the first-ever black athlete signed to the team.

Mitchell was a four-time Pro Bowler and three-time First-team All-Pro. After his playing days, he was in the front office with Washington Redskins from 1969-2002. In his various roles in the front office, he became a three-time Super Bowl champion.

Mitchell is in the Ring of Honor for both the Browns and the Redskins.

“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Bobby Mitchell,” Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker said in a statement. “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. The Hall of Fame will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration to future generations.”

A former teammate of Mitchell, Hall of Famer Jim Brown, gave Mitchell great praise for his athletic ability, attitude, and toughness. Mitchell is one of the most underrated talents the NFL ever had, Brown said.

”Bobby was an individual that was thrown into the arena of being a victim for no reason. He had to suffer for being black more upon any person that I know that played football at the time I played,” Brown said in a past interview with James Brown. “With that kind of ability, if he were white everyone on Earth would know him.”

Even in college, he had to pivot when the University of Arkansas turned him down. Segregation was why he wasn’t offered a scholarship there. While he wanted to play for the college in his home state, he realized it was there lost. He went on to play for the University of Illinois on scholarship. There he starred in football and track.

Despite obstacles Mitchell faced, when he retired from football in1968 he had the second most combined yards in the NFL.

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