Brian Mitchell – Former Commanders RB/KR
- 5th-round, 1990 NFL Draft
- Pick No. 130 | Southwestern Louisiana
The greatest wide receiver in NFL history, Jerry Rice, is currently first on the career total yards list. The iconic running back Walter Payton is third. Sandwiched in between them was the No. 130 overall selection in the 1990 NFL Draft, Brian Mitchell.
After playing quarterback at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, Mitchell would transition to running back in the NFL. As all Washington Commanders fans know, he would make his real mark on special teams – where he would become one of the greatest players in NFL history within this key discipline.
Mitchell was an excellent punt returner. He was not the fastest player to return kicks, nor was he the shiftiest. But he was as tough as they come and he understood the position better than anyone who has ever played.
He knew when to take chances and when to play it safe. Mitchell knew that touchdowns rarely happened on returns and that turning it up-field to get the maximum possible yardage was job No. 1.
But Mitchell was far more than a return man. He ran the special teams, as a coach on the field. He knew the Xs and Os, and he knew how to motivate.
Mitchell could will his teammates into better play through his energy and commitment. Much of his career was spent in the decline after the Joe Gibbs-1 era, but the player never let his teammates forget what a championship team looked like.
There will be a lot of attention paid to whoever the Commanders select in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Hopefully, he will turn out to be a stud. But history suggests that one or two of the players taken later on could end up having just as big an impact on the team’s fortunes.