August 14, 2012

Rookie of the Year: Bobby Mitchell, 1958


Halfback, Cleveland Browns



Age: 23
College: Illinois
Height: 6’0”    Weight: 188

Prelude:
A track as well as football star in college, Mitchell was chosen by Cleveland in the seventh round of the 1958 NFL draft. After having an outstanding performance in the College All-Star Game against the Detroit Lions, he joined the Browns and was teamed with second-year FB Jim Brown to create an outstanding running tandem.

1958 Season Summary
Appeared in all 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 80
Yards – 500 [12]
Average gain – 6.3 [3]
TDs – 1

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 16       
Yards – 131
Average gain – 8.2
TDs – 3

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 18  [4]
Yards – 454 [4]
Average per return – 25.2 [3]
TDs – 1 [3, tied with Terry Barr, Willie Galimore & Leroy Bolden]
Longest return – 98 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 14  [14, tied with Johnny Morris, Jimmy Sears & Jim Shanley]
Yards – 165 [4]
Average per return – 11.8 [2]
TDs – 1 [1, tied with Yale Lary]
Longest return – 68 yards

All-Purpose yards – 1250 [5]

Scoring
TDs – 6
Points – 36

Postseason: 1 G (Eastern Conference playoff at NY Giants)
Punt returns – 1
Punt return yards – 2

Awards & Honors:
NFL Rookie of the Year: Sporting News

Browns went 9-3 to tie for first place in the Eastern Conference while leading the NFL in rushing (2526 yards). Lost Eastern Conference playoff to New York Giants (10-0).

Aftermath:
With his great speed and moves, Mitchell continued to play well for the Browns for the next three seasons. He had a 232-yard rushing performance in a game against the Redskins in 1959 and was selected to the Pro Bowl in ’60. Traded to Washington for 1962 in a move that integrated the club, Mitchell was shifted to flanker and led the NFL in pass receptions (72) and yards (1384) and was a consensus first-team All-Pro. He was also chosen to the Pro Bowl for the first of three consecutive seasons. Mitchell led the league in receiving yards again in ’63 (1436) and TD receptions in 1964 (10). Consistent and a game-breaking deep threat, he was also used occasionally at halfback, especially in 1967 when he carried the ball 61 times, in an attempt to bolster Washington’s weak running game. Retiring after the 1968 season, his career totals were 521 pass receptions (third all-time in the NFL at that point) for 7954 yards (15.4 avg.) and 65 TDs. Adding in his rushing and kick returning, his 14,078 total yards also ranked third at the time and his 91 touchdowns were fifth. Mitchell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1983.

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Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL, AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year). 

[Updated 2/8/14]