When Brian Mitchell retired from football after the 2003 season, he was the all-time leader in all-purpose yards. (He has since been passed by Jerry Rice, the Hall of Fame receiver.) The question is, will Mitchell have a shot at the Hall?
Mitchell gained 23,316 total yards in his career. The problem is that approximately 19,000 of those yards came from punt and kick returns (of which he is the career leader in each). He only gained a little over 4,000 yards on offense.
He also holds 19 NFL records and is tied for one more. Does this merit a Hall of Fame induction?
I am a Hall elitist, but I say Mitchell deserves enshrinement. I have my doubts that he will get the honor however, especially considering that other deserving players (like Ray Guy, the best punter ever) have been excluded.
When I met Mitchell at the Ultimate Collectibles Show, I talked to him about his career and the Hall of Fame. Mitchell was modest, but said his numbers will speak for themselves and it is up to the judges to decide. I told him I would give him the nod.
I understand he was a specialist, but football needs to recognize that special teams are part of the game and should get the same attention as offense and defense. Kicker Jan Stenerud is really the only pure special teams player to be in Canton.
I don't know if Mitchell will ever get the call, but he is a Hall of Famer to Johngy's Beat.