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Mitchell Defined By Heart, Toughness

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Brian Mitchell used the word several times during his Wednesday press conference announcing his retirement as a Redskin.

"Heart."

That's perhaps the best word to describe Mitchell, who officially has ended a sterling 14-year career.

Mitchell arrived at Redskins Park in 1990 as a fifth-round draft pick. He was 5-10 and 221 pounds, grew up in a small town in Louisiana and attended Southwestern Louisiana college.

He wasn't about to let his background or his size hinder a promising NFL career.

"I came from a small school and I was a small person, but I knew I had the biggest heart of anybody in this building," Mitchell said. "I knew back then that people doubted that I could be something special.

"My 10 years [in Washington] were great. When I left, I tried to do the same things wherever I went, because it didn't make a difference what uniform I put on--I was always going to be the same person and that's a person who goes out and gives his all."

Mitchell gave his all for 14 seasons, 10 with the Redskins. On Wednesday, he signed a one-day contract with the Redskins and retired with the team he started with back in 1990.

He was listed as a running back, but he mostly plied his trade as a kick return specialist.

Through the years, he set eight NFL special teams records during his career:

  • Combined Kick Return Yards (kickoffs and punts: 19,013
  • Combined Kick Returns: 1,070
  • Combined Kick Returns for a Touchdown: 13
  • Kickoff Return Yards: 14,014
  • Kickoff Returns: 607
  • Punt Return Yards: 4,999
  • Punt Returns: 463
  • Fair Catches: 231

Mitchell ranks second all-time in all-purpose yards with 23,330, trailing only legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice, who has 23,546.

Mitchell was widely known for verbally mixing it up on the field; he even admitted on Wednesday that it was "easy to get under the skin" of opposing players.

And, sometimes, his own players. Just ask Joe Gibbs.

"The thing I remember most about Brian, just to tell you about his nature and the way he plays the game, in practice he would always volunteer to run the dummy offense against the first-team defense," Gibbs said. "He would be out there carrying the ball and he would be calling out the defense. He's calling guys names and I'm thinking, 'They're going to kill him.'

"The bottom line is, I can honestly say this is one of the toughest guys I've ever been around. Football meant a lot to him and he was very emotional. He is one of the toughest guys I've ever been around."

Even after he left Washington for three seasons in Philadelphia and one season with the New York Giants, Mitchell maintained his ties to the area and his connection with Redskins fans.

"The love that I received from the fans in this area let me know that you can't play this game any other way," he said. "You would think I still dressed in the uniform every week because they understood what I gave them. The fans here have welcomed me with open arms whether I was playing here or not. That's why so many guys, when they retire, come back to this area."

In 2002, Mitchell was named one of the 70 Greatest Redskins. His career numbers suggest he should also be a strong candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mitchell knows that few special teams standouts have been inducted in the Hall.

"I don't know what the criteria is, but I always told young guys coming in that you should leave the best resume that you possibly can because someone has to make a decision," Mitchell said. "I would say my resume is one of the best.

"If it happens, I would be totally thrilled. I just hope that the Hall of Fame would view the whole football team--it's not just offense and defense. Everybody needs to be represented."

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