The Washington Football Team will wear a uniform patch this season to honor late halfback/flanker Bobby Mitchell, who died in April at age 84.
Mitchell, the first black player in franchise history, had his number retired in June, joining late quarterback Sammy Baugh, who wore No. 33, as the only Washington players with such distinction. The team also renamed the lower bowl of FedEx Field in his honor, replacing what was previously called the George Preston Marshall Level.
Marshall, who founded the franchise in 1932, was the last NFL owner to integrate his roster. The team’s trade for Mitchell 30 years later ended that trend, however.
“There is no one more deserving of these honors than the late Bobby Mitchell,” Washington owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement in June. “Bobby was one of the most influential players not only in our team’s history, but in the National Football League. He excelled on the field, in the front office and most importantly in his community where he had a tremendous impact on the lives of so many through his charitable efforts. He was one of the greatest men I have ever known.”
Mitchell was drafted by and spent the first four years of his career with the Cleveland Browns before he was traded to Washington in 1962 along with Leroy Jackson for Ernie Davis. He then spent seven seasons with the franchise formerly known as the Redskins, finishing his career with 14,078 total yards and 91 touchdowns.
A four-time Pro Bowler, Mitchell immediately began work as an executive Washington’s front office when his playing days were over, spending a total of 41 years with the franchise. During his tenure, the team captured three Super Bowl titles.
Mitchell was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
The last time Washington wore a uniform patch was in 2008, when late safety Sean Taylor was induced into the team’s Ring of Fame. The last player in franchise history to wear the No. 49, meanwhile, was tight end Leonard Stephens in 2002.
“This honor would have meant the world to him,” Mitchell’s daughter, Terri, said in a statement. “He would have been thrilled, appreciative and humbled. He felt that the retiring of a jersey is the ultimate recognition of an athlete. My father was a great family man who would have embraced this well-deserved recognition of his many accomplishments.”
Washington opens the 2020 football season on Sunday, Sept. 13, against the Philadelphia Eagles. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET on FOX.
Photos courtesy of the Washington Football Team.