The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced on Sunday afternoon the passing of Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell at the age of 84.
"The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Bobby Mitchell. The Game lost a true legend today," Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker said in a statement. "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."
Redskins owner Dan Snyder, whom Mitchell worked under as an assistant general manager from 1999-2003, issued the following statement regarding the Hall of Famer's passing:
"I was extremely saddened to hear the news about the passing of the great Bobby Mitchell. Bobby was a Hall of Fame player and executive and represented the Washington Redskins organization with integrity for over 50 years. His passion for the game of football was unmatched by anyone I have ever met. Not only was he one of the most influential individuals in franchise history, but he was also one of the greatest men I have ever known. He was a true class act and will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Gwen and the entire Mitchell family during this time."
A seventh-round draft pick out of Illinois in 1958, Mitchell spent his first four seasons in Cleveland where he played alongside fellow Hall of Famer Jim Brown.
In 1961, Mitchell was involved in one of the most noteworthy trades in NFL history when the Browns exchanged him for that year's first overall pick: Syracuse halfback Ernie Davis. Upon signing with his new team, Mitchell went onto to break barriers as Washington's first African-American player.
In 1967, Mitchell was a part of the "Cleveland Summit," a high-profile meeting of world-class African-American athletes -- a group that included Brown, Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) -- geared towards supporting Ali after he refused draft induction because of his religious beliefs. A year later, Mitchell decided to hang up his cleats.
"The Fritz Pollard Alliance is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of NFL great Bobby Mitchell," the Fritz Pollard Alliance said in a statement obtained by NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. "He was a true pioneer for African Americans aspiring for a career in the NFL. He was a valued member of the FPA family. We salute Bobby for his contributions to the game and for his inspiration to so many."
Mitchell earned four Pro Bowl nods, and three first-team and two second-team All-Pro selections during his 11 years in the NFL. He was the receptions leader in 1962, and led the league in receiving yards that season and again in 1963. He is also a member of both the Redskins' Ring of Fame and the Browns' Ring of Honor.
At the time of his retirement, Mitchell finished fifth in rec. yards (6,492), sixth in rec. touchdowns (49) and eighth in receptions (393) in Washington's record book. Having also served as a punt returner for a brief period -- 40 career returns -- he still holds the Redskins' record for career kick return average (28.5 yards, min. 20 rets.). He has career totals of 521 receptions, 7,954 rec. yards and 65 TDs.
Following the end of his career, Mitchell transitioned into an executive role with the Redskins in 1969, per the request of then-head coach Vince Lombardi. He would work for the organization for the next 34 years, serving as a pro scout and eventually moving up to assistant general manager in 1981. He won three Super Bowl rings as an exec in Washington.