Mitchell, 36, played for 3 teams during 11-year career
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 announced.
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 road.
"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 time."
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 Pennsylvania.
"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."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press