In today's Rewarding Moments In Washington History presented by Maryland Lottery My Lottery Rewards, we continue "A History of Firsts Inspiring the Next" series by looking back at Martin Mayhew becoming the first African American general manager in franchise history.
It was during Martin Mayhew's playing career with Washington (1989–1992) that he decided he wanted to be an NFL executive, and he immediately had a role model in Bobby Mitchell.
The first African American player in franchise history, Mitchell starred as a pass-catcher for seven seasons before immediately becoming an executive in 1969. He remained in the front office for more than three decades and spent 23 years of those years as the team's assistant general manager.
In 1999, Mayhew worked with Mitchell as a personnel intern.
"Almost like talking to an uncle or somebody who has some good advice for you, who had already been through the things you were trying to achieve," Mayhew told NBC Sports Washington recently. "I really just enjoyed his mentorship during that time."
That internship kickstarted a 20-year executive career that came full circle Jan. 22, when Mayhew was announced as the first African American general manager in franchise history.
"I wish he was still here to see that I finally got here," Mayhew said of Mitchell, who passed away in April at the age of 84.
Mayhew, in conjunction with head coach Ron Rivera and executive vice president of football/player personnel Marty Hurney, will aim to recreate the seasons Mayhew had as a cornerback with the burgundy and gold. From 1989–1992, the team averaged double-digit victories, made the postseason three times, won five playoff games and celebrated its third Super Bowl championship in 1992.
"It was really just the best football that I've ever been around," Mayhew told senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson. "It's the best I ever played, it's the best team I ever played for and the best teammates that I ever had, so just the opportunity to come back, it really was a dream of mine to be in this position."
Mayhew brings a tremendous amount of experience back to the nation's capital. Like Hurney, he has been a general manager before, heading up the Detroit Lions' front office from 2008-15. He most recently served as the vice president of player personnel in San Francisco, where he was an integral part of building a 49ers roster that appeared in last year's Super Bowl.
"Both [Owner] Mr. [Dan] Snyder and I both feel very comfortable with the decisions that we've made going forward," Rivera said of Mayhew and Hurney in their introductory press conference. "These men have both been with this organization in the past, and this is a homecoming of sorts for both of them. They understand the rich history and tradition of this franchise and are eager to get to work to get us back to playing championship football here in the DMV."
As Mayhew embarks on his journey to help turn Washington into a consistent winner, he'll surely interact with those who aspire to be where he is now. And just like Mitchell passed along his expertise when Mayhew was a player, Mayhew wants to do the same with the next generation of NFL decision makers.
"I never forget the time [former Baltimore Ravens general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] gave me, the time that Bobby gave me," Mayhew told NBC Sports Washington. "I always try to give some of that time back."