Black History Month In Focus: Bobby Mitchell Becomes First Black Player In WFT History

In December 1961, the Cleveland Browns traded Bobby Mitchell to the Washington Football Team (Redskins). The move elevated Mitchell to barrier-breaking status as the first Black player in franchise history, while also making Washington the last team in the NFL to integrate.

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During his seven years as a player for Washington, he became one of the greatest to suit up for the burgundy and gold, by amassing (6,930 total yards) and 51 touchdowns while averaging 16.5 per reception. He was the epitome of “big play.”

He was voted to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 1962-64, while posting at least (900 receiving yards) in four seasons.

In the team’s 1962 opener which was Mitchell’s first game, he had a historical performance versus the Cowboys with (227 all-purpose yards) and two touchdowns. Mitchell led the team in receiving yards and was the focal point of Washington’s offense against the archrival Cowboys. In this game alone he accounted for 47% of the team’s offense, while quickly showing the league the receiving threat he would pose for years to come.

In 1966, Mitchell made Washington history again in a road game at the Eagles. Mitchell surpassed Hugh Taylor’s (5,233 yards) to become the franchise leader in receiving yards. He finished his career with (6,942 receiving yards), which ranks fifth behind Art Monk, Charley Taylor, Gary Clark and Santana Moss. Mitchell received his “Gold Jacket” as he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame in 1983.

Mitchell was blessed with exceptional speed, uncanny faking ability and balance. Following his 11-year playing career, Mitchell spent 34 years with the Washington Football team in a variety of roles. Those roles included scout, and assistant general manager. He won three Super Bowls in those roles.

Mitchell should always be remembered for his play on the field, but he should be equally celebrated for his dedicated activism off the field to pave the way for generations to come. He even stood behind Muhammad Ali when the boxing legend refused to enlist in the draft.

Bobby was a true legend, who was an incredible player, talented executive and a real gentleman to whom he worked with or competed against. His passion for the game of football was unmatched and he’ll go down as one of the greatest and most influential individuals in Washington Football team history.

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