In today's Rewarding Moments In Washington History presented by Maryland Lottery My Lottery Rewards, we look back to when Bobby Mitchell joined Washington to become the franchise's first African American player.
On Dec. 16, 1961, the Cleveland Browns traded Bobby Mitchell to Washington, making him the first African American player in franchise history.
During his seven years as a player for Washington, he became one of the greatest to ever suit up for the burgundy and gold by amassing 6,930 total yards and 51 touchdowns while averaging 16.5 yards per reception. He was voted to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 1962-64 and had at least 900 receiving yards in four seasons.
Washington's 1962 season opener and Mitchell's first game with the team was a historical performance against the Dallas Cowboys. By the end of the game, Mitchell put up 227 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Mitchell, who led the team in receiving yards, was the focal point of Washington's offense against the Cowboys, accounting for 47% of the offense and quickly showing the league the receiving threat he would pose for years to come.
In 1966, Mitchell made Washington history again. During a road game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Mitchell surpassed Hugh Taylor's 5,233 yards to become the franchise's new leader in receiving yards. He finished his playing career in Washington with 6,492 receiving yards, which is fifth behind Ark Monk, Charley Taylor, Gary Clark and Santana Moss. Mitchell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
After his retirement in 1969, Mitchell remained in Washington for the next 34 years as a front office executive. During that time, Mitchell served as a pro scout and eventually moved his way up to assistant general manager for all three of the franchise's Super Bowls. After 40 years with the organization, Mitchell retired in 2002.
Mitchell passed away in April of last year, but his legacy continues to live on. Not only was Mitchell's jersey number retired, which has happened just one other time in franchise history, but the team also wore a patch with Mitchell's number on its jerseys during the 2020 season to remember his lasting impact not only within the franchise but also within the Washington Metropolitan Area.
"Bobby was a Hall of Fame player and executive and represented the Washington organization with integrity for over 50 years," Owner Dan Snyder said in a statement announcing Mitchell's death. "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."