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Put ’em in the Hall: Brian Mitchell

September 23, 2010

Brian Mitchell/UPI

by Oh No Romo

Brian Mitchell belongs in the Hall of Fame. He made the return specialist position sexy before Devin Hester and Dante Hall ever did.

Let’s face it, Mitchell made returners a hot commodity. And he did it during a time when there was a lot of returners (Eric Metcalf, Tim Brown, Darrien Gordon, and Desmond Howard).

Mitchell was a fifth round selection of the Washington Redskins in the 1990 NFL Draft. You might remember that draft for featuring the likes of Emmitt Smith, Cortez Kennedy, Junior Seau and even Larry Centers (who was picked in the same round, but ahead of Mitchell).

Washington at that time had Earnest Byner (fast forward to 6:44) and Gerald Riggs, among their running backs. Most running backs wind up fielding kick-offs for punts. Mitchell didn’t do much his first season in Washington, but he did get a rushing touchdown.

In ’91, Washington’s Super Bowl season, Mitchell put up a career high in punt return yards with 600, leading the NFL. His two punt returns for touchdowns also led the NFL. Mitchell had a 69-yard return for a touchdown in the opening game of the season against Detroit.

Mitchell would put up the big numbers again in ’94, when he finished third in the NFL in punt return yards (behind Brown and Gordon). His two returns for touchdowns also had him in a tie for first with Gordon, Metcalf and the Giants Dave Meggett.

Mitchell also led the league in punt and kick returns, yards per punt return, and kick and punt return yards.

The ’95 season was Mitchell’s Pro Bowl year.  Mitchell led the league in All-Purpose yards, beating out returners like Glyn Milburn, Eric Metcalf, and even star players like Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders and Jerry Rice. Mitchell finished third in the NFL in kick return yards.

While he was racking up the yards in kick returns, Mitchell didn’t get his first kick return for a touchdown until 1997. He only has four career kick returns for touchdowns, which ties him with Devin Hester and Andre’ Davis, among others, for 14th all-time. For the record, Josh Cribbs leads the way with eight returns for touchdowns.

In the ’98 season, Mitchell finished third in punt return yards and punt returns. He also had his longest kick return of his career, a 101-yard return for a score against San Diego in week 14.

Mitchell played a couple more seasons and went to Philly in 2000. In ’02, Mitchell finished second in the NFL in punt return yards. Mitchell played his final season with the Giants in ’03 and retired soon after.

Mitchell holds numerous records. He’s the all-time leader in punt returns, kick returns (and punt and kick returns combined), punt return yards, kick return yards, as well as the punt and kick return yards combined.

Mitchell is second all-time in all-purpose yards with 23,316 yards. The only person ahead of him is Jerry Rice.

Mitchell’s credentials are worthy of having a bust in Canton. Even if he only made the Pro Bowl once, he’s still worthy of it. He’s by far one of the best, if not THEE best, return specialists of all-time. For that, he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

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