Bobby Mitchell was blessed with exceptional speed, uncanny faking ability and balance. They were assets that served the versatile wide receiver/halfback well during his 11-year National Football League career that began in 1958 as a seventh-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns.
The fact that Mitchell lasted until the seventh round was somewhat of a mystery, but certainly a stroke of luck for the Browns. Mitchell, who had hoped to play flanker in the pros, was teamed with the incomparable Jim Brown to give the Browns one of history's truly great running back combinations from 1958 through 1961.
He also was a breakaway threat as a punt- and kickoff-return specialist. After four productive seasons with the Browns, Bobby was traded to the Washington Redskins where he played with distinction for seven more seasons.
With his trade to Washington, Bobby became the first African American to sign and star for the Redskins. In Washington, the 6-0, 192-pound Mitchell was for the most part a full-time flanker who gained the reputation as one of the finest catch-run yardage makers in the game.
It is little wonder NFL defenders shuddered whenever Bobby got the ball. He was a potential time bomb who almost always went off. When Mitchell retired, his 14,078 combined net yards was the second highest total in NFL history. He had also scored an amazing 91 touchdowns. Eighteen of his touchdowns came by rushing, 65 on receptions, 3 on punt returns, and 5 on kickoff returns. He amassed 7,954 yards on receptions and 2,735 yards on rushes.
He won the NFL receiving title in 1962 with 72 catches. During his first six seasons with the Redskins he never caught fewer than 58 passes. Four times, once as a running back and three times as a wide receiver, he was selected to play in the Pro Bowl.
The former wide receiver and halfback stayed with the Redskins after retiring as a player per the encouragement of Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi. Mitchell served as a scout and then later as an assistant general manager. He retired with the team in 2002.
Mitchell was Enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and used his platform to help others.
The former wide receiver and halfback hosted the Bobby Mitchell Hall of Fame Classic, an annual golf fundraiser that benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for over 30 years. For his efforts to fight the disease, he received the Eichberg Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The award recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of an individual who has demonstrated dedication and commitment to the mission of LLS, thereby making a significant impact on the lives of patients and families.
Mitchell has also worked in many efforts and organizations including the United Negro College Fund, the Boys' and Girls' Clubs of Washington D.C., the Howard University Cancer Research Advisory Committee, the American Lung Association of D.C., the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission, the National Urban League, the NAACP, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the University of Illinois Presidents Council and the University of Illinois Foundation.
The Browns inducted him into their Ring of Honor in 2010.