According to John Keim of ESPN on Saturday, the Washington Redskins have decided to retire the number 49. The number was worn by Bobby Mitchell of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Mitchell, who died on April 5, becomes only the second Redskins player in franchise history to have his number retired. Mitchell follows quarterback Sammy Baugh of Temple, Texas, who had his number 33 retired. It is not known as of yet the date that the ceremony will take place.
Mitchell came to the Redskins from the Cleveland Browns in 1962. While playing as a flanker, he caught 393 passes for 6492 yards and 49 touchdowns with the Redskins from 1962 to 1968. Mitchell also had 90 rushes for 438 yards and two touchdowns with Washington.
While in Washington, Mitchell was selected to the Pro Bowl for three straight years from 1962 to 1964. He was also a first-team all-pro for those three seasons as well. In 1962, Mitchell led the NFL with 72 catches, 1384 receiving yards, and 98.9 receiving yards per game. In 1963, he led the NFL with 1436 receiving yards, and 102.6 yards per game. Then in 1964, Mitchell had an NFL-high 10 touchdown catches.
Mitchell was also the first African-American player to play with the Redskins. When he joined Washington in 1962, the Redskins were the last team in the NFL to integrate. Mitchell was one of four African-American players on the Redskins that season. The others were guard John Nisby of San Francisco, CA, fullback Ron Hatcher of Pittsburgh, PA, and running back Leroy Jackson of Chicago Heights, IL.
After Mitchell’s playing career, he remained with the Redskins from 1969 to 2003. In this time he was the Redskins’ assistant general manager and pro scout. Mitchell was reportedly disappointed he never had the chance to be the Redskins general manager, and believes his race was a reason why he never got that chance according to Warner Hessler of the Daily Press. Mitchell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
Also this weekend, the Redskins removed the statue of former owner George Preston Marshall. The Redskins made the decision because Marshall had “resisted for years” to “integrate his roster” according to Keim. The Redskins also renamed the lower bowl of FedEx Field in honor of Mitchell, after it had been named after Marshall.