UPDATED: Football legend Mitchell dies

Monday, October 22, 2007
Shelbyville native and NFL legend Jim Mitchell during his playing days with the Atlanta Falcons. (T-G File Photo by Bo Melson)

Former NFL, college and Harris High football star Jim Mitchell died Saturday in Shelbyville after suffering an apparent heart attack.

He had celebrated his 60th birthday Friday.

A friend found Mitchell unconscious on the front steps of his home Saturday morning. He was taken to Bedford County Medical Center, where he died.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete and will be announced by Feldhaus Memorial Chapel.

Mitchell played tight end for the Atlanta Falcons from 1969-79, being named to the Pro Bowl following the 1969 and 1972 seasons. Previously, he had starred for Shelbyville’s Harris High School and Prairie View A&M in Texas.

After retirement from the Falcons, he coached at Morehouse and Morris Brown colleges in Georgia before returning to Shelbyville, where he served as a volunteer assistant coach for the Central High and Liberty School football teams.

Henry Cooley of Shelbyville has good memories of Mitchell’s days at Harris High in the early and mid-1960s.

“I remember watching him against Holloway (of Murfreesboro) in the annual Thanksgiving Day Classic one year,” Cooley, an expert on Harris High’s and Bedford County Training School’s football history, said. “He was the main man on the field.”

Mitchell was an all-around athlete, starring in basketball and baseball as well, Cooley said.

“He was a good-hearted person,” Cooley said. “He loved kids and hurt for them if they had problems.”

Part of Mitchell’s outreach to children and the community included football camps he held in Shelbyville since the mid-1970s. He was planning a camp for next year.

Mitchell suffered diabetes-related health problems in the past few years, which eventually took his eyesight.