ASHBURN, Va. -- Former NFL linebacker Kevin Mitchell died in
his sleep at the age of 36.
Mitchell died overnight Sunday at his home in Ashburn, near the
Washington Redskins' training facility, according to the team. An
autopsy was performed Monday by the Virginia state medical
examiner's office. The cause of death was not immediately
Mitchell was drafted in the second round out of Syracuse in 1994
by the San Francisco 49ers, who moved the undersized college
defensive lineman to linebacker.
"I was blown away when I heard of Kevin's death," 49ers
defensive tackle Bryant Young said. "We were in the same draft
class and we always roomed together in training camp and on the
"When Kevin left the Niners, we talked periodically. You take
for granted that people will be here forever, and I feel bad that
we can never have the chance to catch back up with each other. My
heart goes out to his wife and family during this devastating
Mitchell played with San Francisco until 1997, then signed with
New Orleans (1998-99). He played his final four seasons (2000-03)
with the Redskins.
"Anyone who knew him was touched by his smile, joy for life and
love of his family," Washington owner Dan Snyder said. "Anyone
who ever played with him or against him never forgot it. He earned
our deepest respect."
Mitchell was a graduate of Harrisburg High School in
"When we retired his number a couple of years ago, it looked
like he could still step on the field," Harrisburg High athletic
director Kirk Smallwood said.
Relatives told The Patriot-News of Harrisburg that his physique
had not changed much since his playing days, when he was listed at
6-foot-1, 260 pounds.
"He had some pains from his playing days -- bone spurs and
regular stuff. But it wasn't like he retired and blew up to 350,"
said cousin Kenny Mitchell of Lower Paxton Township, Pa. "He was
in good shape; I don't understand it."