Pro football legend Bobby Mitchell will be recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate Insurance Company in Hot Springs, Ark., on Tuesday, Feb. 26, as part of "Hometown Hall of Famers," a national program honoring the hometown roots of the sport's greatest coaches, players, and contributors with special ceremonies and plaque dedication events in local communities.
I had the chance to chat with #49 today about his introduction, why is race still a topic for Quarterbacks, and the Redskins mascot name.
Who introduced you for your 1983 introduction in Canton:
Edward Bennett Williams. President of the Redskins. In fact he was the first one to be allowed to interviewed two Hall of Famers. Me and Sonny at the same time. That's the first time they allowed that but he was such a great speaker. He was one of the top lawyers in the whole world.
[The Hall of Fame ceremony tomorrow] is very significant because those of us that grew up in the South, most of us don't have a high school. They tore down our schools when they integrated. The same thing happened to my school. So this is quite significant to go to the new high school and have your plaque put there and they'll also probably put up something downtown.
With your speed and great hands, it seems like your skill set would be perfect for the NFL today.
Oh gosh I think about that (laughing). Boy, I would have caught so many balls! Because back then we ran the ball. So, you had to catch everything thrown your way if you're going to get anything. I was over 50 catches every year, 50, 60, 70 catches. That was kind of unheard of that time. Very few people caught a lot balls. The significant thing was I got a lot of yards out of it. I ended my career with almost 15,000 yards. I'm always impressed with my touchdowns...91 is a pretty good haul.
With today's offense you'd probably break Jerry's record.
(laughing) When I watch the guys today make three catches and they dance for four hours. Man! Three catches? If I came out of the game with three catches I'd be something upset even then. The game has changed and I think it's for the better because it's very exciting for the fans.
It's been over 20 years since Doug Williams won the Super Bowl. Why is race and African American QBs still a topic?
Yea, it's really crazy isn't it? It just doesn't make any sense now. The guy is a player, let him play. I don't know. I think this race issue will be there in front of us no matter how long and it's awful, awful crazy.
What's your stance on the Redskins name and the hot topic of it being offensive?
It's tough for me. I remember back in the day, a lot of the Indian guys who lived around the area all knew me. We'd talk occasionally. And there was a couple of them many years ago that would raise hell. You couldn't blame them. They'd get on me and say why don't you stand up with us? Hell, I'm just trying to make the team right now (laughing). It was kind of tough for awhile because they were pushing it so hard with me. My feeling is still the same, I'm Pro Redskin so it's going to be difficult to get me to turn that but at the same time I understand the complaint and feelings. I understand it very much. That's going to be a tough one.
So they were upset?
Oh yes. Even back in my day when I came here. I remember trying to get the stadium in Maryland with Mr. Cooke. I went to speak to the board out there and man, the place was packed with people. And I had to get up there and talk about what Mr. Cooke wanted and what we wanted to do and you could hear the guys in the background screaming at me. Even then. So, it's been out there a long time.
What hurdles did Jack Kent Cooke have to go through?
He really just never dealt with it all. In Maryland we were trying to get the stadium that's there now working with Council members. They would come to the meetings and scream at us. Scream at me. Boy, they grilled me pretty hard. So, it was tough even then. They're sincere about it that's for sure.
It's quite interesting to hear that Bobby Mitchell is for the name given everything he's been through. Man, I'd love to be a fly on the wall during these council meetings with people screaming at Bobby Mitchell. I wonder if Mike Wise with a full head of hair was there.