NFF Salutes the Black History Trailblazers


NFF - Black History Month
Iowa’s Slater, Brown’s Pollard and Harvard’s Lewis

February is Black History Month, and there isn’t a sport where the contributions of our nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) are more evident than college football. To this day, black college classics are among the most well-attended games in college football’s lower divisions with crowds that would make an NCAA FBS program proud.

It’s evident, too, in the proud tradition of marching bands at HBCU’s where the halftime shows are sometimes just as big as the game itself. Bands like “The Human Jukebox” from Southern University, Grambling State’s “Tiger Marching Band” and “These Marching Rattlers” from Florida A&M are responsible for as many fans in the seats as the teams they march in support of most Saturdays. We make sure that part of our journey each fall is stopping by these amazing colleges and universities, and in recent years that has included Grambling, Tuskegee, Tennessee State, Alabama A&M and others.

But college football’s rich history is filled with pioneers who broke the color barrier at predominantly white universities as well, and the National Football Foundation has done a great job of documenting some of the many individuals who crossed those lines and helped opened the door for generations of athletes that have followed.

It wasn’t easy, and it’s alarming to see the dates in the list provided to show just how long it took some Southern schools to get on board and integrate their programs. We shouldn’t ever overlook the contributions of the individuals on this list, and here at RoadTripSports.com where we celebrate college football’s history every day, we couldn’t think of a better way to shine a light on these individuals than to share the release from the National Football Foundation in its entirety.


IRVING, Texas – As part of a Black History Month tribute, The National Football Foundation (NFF) & the College Football Hall of Fame created a list (see below) which highlights just a few of the many significant individuals who helped integrate football since the first college game between Rutgers and Princeton on November 6, 1869. During the month of February, the NFF will profile several of these trailblazers on FootballMatters.org, the NFF’s digital platform for storytelling and promoting the good in the game.

The stories of those who helped integrate college football encapsulate a similar sentiment expressed by Secretary Condoleezza Rice during her recent acceptance speech of the NFF Gold Medal, the organization’s highest honor, at the 58th NFF Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on Dec. 8, 2015. The first female African-American U.S. Secretary of State, Rice, grew up the daughter of a high school football coach in segregated Birmingham, Ala., and in her acceptance speech, she spoke eloquently about the significance of football in her life and more importantly about the role of the game in integrating America.

“Football matters to me because it is a reflection of how far our country has come,” said Rice. “As a little girl growing up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, where black players did not and could not play at the University of Alabama or at Auburn, where they went far afield to play because our country was not ready yet to accept that ‘We the People’ had to be an inclusive concept, and look at how far we have come.

“As I watched those teams and others, as I watch young men of all backgrounds and all religions of all races and all ethnicities pulling together, working together, teammates, loving each other, respecting each other, it is a reflection of America’s journey. And it is a wonderful story of the incredible ability of the human spirit to overcome. And for people to overcome their prejudices and their history in favor of a common good. We are a better country for the role that football has played in bringing us together.”

Secretary Rice’s speech echoed the same theme captured by former head coach Bill Curry, who penned a poignant piece after the tragic events of September 11, 2001 that was played during the 44thNFF Annual Awards Dinner in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The piece, titled “Leadership in the Huddle,” spoke about football as a metaphor for the culture of our country and its ability to transcend prejudices.

“The men who have earned a place in the huddle have experienced the miracle of team,” wrote Curry. “[Football] is the only sport in which every player needs every teammate on every play just to survive. We learn ever so slowly that our differences do not matter much in the huddle. When we trudge in after each interminable workout, we know that sweat smells about the same on everybody’s body. When we get busted in the mouth that blood that trickles is the same color. Everybody is tried. Everybody is hurt.

“It is in this process that the miracle occurs. Men who have been raised to hate each other’s guts become brothers. I have seen racists reformed. I have seen the most unlikely hugs after victories or losses. I have seen inner city kids invite country boys from the mountains to go home with them for Thanksgiving Dinner, and I have seen those invitations accepted and reciprocated, thus changing parents’ lives. Our players become brothers for life. It is what America is supposed to be, could be, and might be, in our best dreams.”

From its earliest days, the NFF has honored the African-Americans who forged the path for future generations. The NFF inducted the inaugural College Football Hall of Fame Class in 1951, including Duke Slater, the legendary tackle at Iowa from 1918-21 and who was the Hawkeyes’ first African-American All-American. The NFF’s second class included famed Brown running back Fritz Pollard, who played for the Bears from 1915-16 and was the first African-American to play in the Rose Bowl and subsequently the first to coach in the NFL. African-Americans in the College Football Hall of Fame currently number 202 players and 12 coaches, and many of them used their exceptional skills to help integrate the game. The following list highlights several Hall of Famers along with many other notable African-Americans who helped pave the way.


Alabama
Wilbur Jackson, running back from 1971-73, first African-American to earn a football scholarship at Alabama
John Mitchell, offensive lineman from 1971-73, first African-American to take the field at Alabama

Amherst College (Mass.)
William H. Lewis, center from 1889-91, joined William Tecumseh Sherman Jackson as the first African-American players ever at a predominantly white college, 2009 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, also played at Harvard where he became the first ever African-American to earn First Team All-America honors
William Tecumseh Sherman Jackson, halfback from 1889-1891, joined Williams H. Lewis as the first African-American players ever at a predominantly white college

Arizona
Fred Batiste, running back from 1949-52, first African-American to play at Arizona

Arizona State
Emerson Harvey, defensive end from 1937-38, first African-American to play football at Arizona State

Arkansas
Darrell Brown, tailback/cornerback from 1965-69, first African-American to play football at Arkansas

Arkansas State
David Mitchell, running back from 1970-73, first African-American to play at Arkansas State

Auburn
James Owen, fullback from 1969-72, first African-American to play at Auburn

Baylor
John Hill Westbrook, running back from 1965-66, first African-American to play in the Southwest Conference

Boise State
Aurelius Buckner, played from 1944-46, first African-American to play at Boise State (then Boise Junior College)

Boston College
Lou Montgomery, running back from 1938-41, first African-American student-athlete at Boston College

Brown
Fritz Pollard, running back from 1915-16, first African-American to play in the Rose Bowl, first black running back to be named a Walter Camp All-American, 1954 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, first African-American to coach in the NFL

BYU
Bennie Smith, cornerback from 1971-72, first African-American to appear on the BYU roster

California
Walter Gordon, interior lineman from 1915-18,  first African-American from Cal, 1975 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, first African-American to receive a law degree from Cal

Clemson
Marion Reeves,  cornerback from 1971-73, first African-American to play at Clemson

Colorado
Frank Clarke, wide receiver in 1955-56, first African-American to play football at Colorado, among first African-Americans to play in the Orange Bowl
John Wooten, offensive guard from 1956-58, one of the first African-Americans to earn All-America honors playing on the interior line,  2012 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which works in conjunction with the NFL in minority hiring practices

Colorado State
John W. Mosley, fullback from 1939-42, first African-American to play in the Mountain States Conference

Cornell
Jerome “Brud” Holland, first African-American to play at Cornell, 1965 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, U.S. ambassador to Sweden 1970-72, first African-American director of the New York Stock Exchange, 1971 NFF Distinguished American Award, 1985 Presidential Medal of Freedom

Drake
Johnny Bright, halfback from 1949-51, endured a notorious racially motivated attack during a game in 1951 while contending for the Heisman Trophy, 1984 College Football Hall of Fame inductee

Duke
William Turner, played in 1966, along with Allen Parks first African-American players at Duke
Allen Parks, played in 1966, along with William Turner first African-Americans players at Duke

East Carolina
Paul Scott, played in 1966, first African American student to receive a football scholarship to East Carolina

Florida
Leonard George, defensive back from 1968-71, first African-American scholarship player at Florida
Willie Jackson Sr., wide receiver from 1968-71, first African-American to play in a game at Florida

Florida State
Calvin Patterson, played from 1968-69, first African-American to play at Florida State

Georgia
Richard Appleby
, wide receiver from 1971-74, one of first African-Americans to play at Georgia
Horace King, running back from 1971-74, one of first African-Americans to play at Georgia
Chuck Kinnebrew, defensive lineman from 1971-74, one of first African-Americans to play at Georgia
Larry West, defensive back from 1971-74, one of first African-Americans to play at Georgia

Georgia Tech
Edward ‘Eddie’ McAshan, quarterback from 1970-72, first African-American football player to start at Georgia Tech, first black quarterback to start for a major Southeastern university

Harvard
William H. Lewis, center from 1892-93, first ever African-American to earn First Team All-America honors, 2009 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, also played at Amherst as one of the first two African-American football players ever at predominately white college
Chester Pierce, tackle in 1947, first African-American to play in a game south of the Mason-Dixon Line

Houston
Warren McVea, running back from 1965-67, first African-American to play at Houston

Illinois
Claude Young, halfback in 1944; 1946, first African-American to play at Illinois, 1968 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, first African-American to work as an executive with a major sports league as a member of the NFL Commissioner’s staff
J.C. Caroline, halfback from 1953-54, first African-American elected captain at Illinois, 1980 College Football Hall of Fame inductee

Indiana
Preston Eagleson, running back from 1893-95, first African-American to play football at Indiana, first African-American to earn an advanced degree from IU
George Taliaferro, halfback in 1945, 1947-1948, first African-American drafted by an NFL team, 1981 College Football Hall of Fame inductee

Iowa
Frank Kinney Holbrook, played from 1895-96, first African-American to play at Iowa
Archie Alexander, tackle from 1910-12, second African-American player at Iowa
Duke Slater, tackle from 1918-21, first African-American All-American at Iowa, first African-American as a member of the first College Football Hall of Fame Class in 1951
Ozzie Simmons, played from 1934-35, endured racial targeting during the 1934 Minnesota game that led to the Minnesota and Iowa governors wagering a prize hog the following year to defuse the situation eventually leading to the creation of the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy

Iowa State
Jack Trice, tackle from 1922-23, first African-American student-athlete in the Big Six, Iowa State’s stadium is named in his honor, died to due injuries suffered during the 1923 Minnesota game with speculation that he was targeted for racial reasons and creating a hiatus between the two schools playing each other until 1989

Kansas State
Veryl Switzer, halfback from 1950-53, first African-American scholarship player at Kansas State

Kentucky
Wilber Hackett, linebacker from 1968-70, first African-American captain in the SEC (1969), continued legacy of Northerington and Page and graduated with Hogg as first African-American football players to graduate UK
Nate Northerington, running back and defensive back from 1966-67, first African-American to play in the SEC
Greg Page, defensive end in 1967, one of the first two African-Americans to sign to play football at Kentucky but died six weeks later from a paralyzing neck injury in practice
Houston Hogg, running back from 1969-70, continued legacy of Northerington and Page and graduated with Hackett as first African-American football players to graduate UK

LSU
Lora Hinton Jr., running back from 1971-75, first African-American to earn an athletic scholarship at LSU
Mike Williams, cornerback from 1972-74, second African-American player at LSU

Louisiana Tech
Fred Dean, defensive end from 1971-74, among first African-Americans to play at Louisiana Tech, 2009 College Football Hall of Fame inductee

Louisville
Lawrence Simmons, played in 1952, first African-American to play at Louisville

Maryland
Darryl Hill, wide receiver from 1962-63, first African-American on a team in a Southern conference, first African-American player in the ACC

Miami (Fla.)
Ray Bellamy, wide receiver from 1967-70, first African-American on a football scholarship at Miami (Fla.)

Michigan
George Jewett, fullback/halfback from 1890-93, first African-American to play in the Big Ten, later transferred to Northwestern and become the first African-American to play for the Wildcats as well
Willis Ward, from 1932-34, second African-American and first in 40 years to play at Michigan, controversially excluded from playing in the 1934 Georgia Tech game for racial reasons

Michigan State
Gideon Edward Smith, tackle from 1913-15, first African-American student-athlete at Michigan State (then known as Michigan Agriculture College)
James McCrary, halfback from 1933-34, notoriously left behind for the Texas A&M game in 1934
Albert Baker, end in 1934, notoriously left behind for the Texas A&M game in 1934
Horace Smith, halfback and end from 1946-49, played during the reversal of the policy of “segregated integration” when Northern schools would not play African-American players against Southern schools as one of the first to play in the South
Willie Thrower, quarterback from 1949-52, first African-American quarterback to play in the Big Ten in 1950, first African-American to play quarterback in the NFL
Clinton Jones, halfback from 1964-66, a member of the first foursome of African-American players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame from the same freshman class
Bubba Smith, defensive end, from 1964-66, a member of the first foursome of African-American players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame from the same freshman class
Gene Washington, wide receiver from 1964-66, a member of the first foursome of African-American players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame from the same freshman class
George Webster, linebacker from 1964-66, a member of the first foursome of African-American players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame from the same freshman class

Minnesota
Bobby Marshall, played 1904-06, first African-American player at Minnesota and the second African-American in history to earn All-American honors twice, 1971 College Football Hall of Fame inductee
Ellsworth Harpole, played 1931-33, the second African-American player at Minnesota
Dwight Reed, a blocking end from 1935-37, received national attention when he was forced to watch the Gopher’s 1935 homecoming game from the press box because Tulane refused to play if he was on the field, endured a similar experience in 1936 against Texas, played on two Big Ten and National Championship teams
Horace Bell, played from 1936-38, joined Reed in being held out of the 1936 Texas game
Sandy Stephens, 1959-61, first African-American quarterback to earn First Team All-America honors, 2011 College Football Hall of Fame inductee

Mississippi
Robert Jerry “Ben” Williams, defensive lineman 1972-75, first African-American to play at Mississippi, first African-American from Ole Miss to be inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame (1997)

Missouri
Norris Stevenson, running back from 1958-60, joined Mel West as the first African-Americans to play at Missouri
Mel West, running back from 1958-60, joined Norris Stevenson as the first African-Americans to play at Missouri

Navy
Calvin Huey, wide receiver from 1963-64, first African-American to play at any of the service academies

Nebraska
George Flippin, running back from 1891-94, first African-American to play at Nebraska

Nevada
Arthur James, played in 1921, first African-American to play at Nevada

North Carolina
Ricky Lanier, quarterback from 1967-69, first African-American scholarship player at North Carolina

NC State
Marcus Martin, defensive back from 1967-69, first African-American to play at NC State

North Texas
Abner Haynes, running back from 1956-59, first African-American player at a major Texas college, two-time All-MVC

Notre Dame
Wayne Edmonds, lineman from 1953-55, first African-American to play at Notre Dame

Northwestern
George Jewett, fullback/halfback from 1893-94, first African-American to play at Northwestern, holds the distinction as the only person to be the first African-American to play at two Big Ten schools, having previously been the first at Michigan as well
Alton Washington, played from 1898-1901, second African-American football player at Northwestern
Joe Lattimore, played in 1900, joining Alton Washington and giving Northwestern the first pair of black teammates in the conference

Ohio State
William Bell, lineman from 1929-1931, sidelined because of racial tensions against Navy as a junior and against Vanderbilt as a senior
Arthur Carr, player in 1904
Bill Willis, tackle from 1942-44, first African-American on a national championship team, one of the first African-Americans to play professional football in the modern era, 1971 College Football Hall of Fame inductee
Jim Parker, guard from 1954-1956, first Ohio State player to win the Outland Trophy, 1974 College Football Hall of Fame inductee
Fred Patterson, player from 1891-93, first African-American at Ohio State and second to play for a Big Ten school

Oklahoma
Prentice Gautt, running back from 1956 to 1959, first black football player at Oklahoma, 2005 recipient of the NFF Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award

Oklahoma State
Chester Pittman, halfback from 1957-60, first African-American to letter at Oklahoma State

Oregon
Robert Robinson, quarterback from 1926-29, first African-American starting quarterback in college football, first black student-athlete at Oregon

Oregon State
Dave Mann, punter/running back from 1951-54, first African-American to play at Oregon State

Penn State
Wallace “Wally” Triplett III, halfback from 1945-48, first African-American to start for Penn State, first black student-athlete to earn a varsity letter, first Nittany Lion to be selected in the NFL Draft, first African-American to play in the Cotton Bowl along with teammate Dennie Hoggard
Dennie Hoggard, played 1946-48, first African-American to play in the Cotton Bowl in 1948 along with teammate Wally Tripplett

Pittsburgh
Allen Carter, played in 1945, first African-American to play at Pittsburgh
Bobby Grier, fullback from 1952-55, first African-American to play in the Sugar Bowl

Purdue
Lamar Lundy, defensive end from 1953-56, first African-American scholarship player at Purdue

Rice
Stahle Vincent, quarterback from 1969-71, one of the first three African-American players at Rice, first African-American quarterback in Southwest Conference
Rodrigo Barnes, linebacker from 1969-71, one of the first three African-American players at Rice, first African-American to be named to an All-SWC Defensive Team
Mike Tyler, defensive back from 1969-71, one of the first three African-American players at Rice

Rutgers
Paul Robeson, End from 1915-18, first African-American to play football at Rutgers, 1995 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, named one of the ten most important black men in American history by Ebony Magazine

SMU
Jerry LeVias, wide receiver from 1966-68, first African-American player in Southwest Conference history, 2003 College Football Hall of Fame inductee

South Carolina
Jackie Brown, wide receiver from 1970-72, first African-American to start at South Carolina and earn a varsity letter

Southern California
Brice Taylor, guard from 1924-26, first African-American to play at USC, first All-American at USC
Sam Cunningham, fullback from 1970-72, member of first all-black backfield in Division I history, 2010 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, played in historic 1970 game between Alabama and USC

Southern Mississippi
Willie Heidelberg, running back from 1970-71, first African-American to play at Southern Miss

Springfield College (Mass.)
Roscoe C. Brown, Jr., offensive and defensive end from 1939-42, one of the Tuskegee Airmen and the first pilot to shoot down a newer, faster German Messerschmitt Me-262 jet during World War II, 2012 NFF Gold Medal recipient

Syracuse
Jim Brown, running back from 1954-56, one of the first African-Americans to utilize his on field accomplishments as a platform for creating off-field opportunities as an actor and social activist, 1995 College Football Hall of Fame inductee
Ernie Davis, running back from 1959-61, first African-American Heisman Trophy recipient, 1979 College Football Hall of Fame inductee

Tennessee
Lester McClain, wide receiver from 1968-70, first African-American to play at Tennessee
Condredge Holloway, quarterback from 1972-74, first African-American to start at quarterback in SEC

Texas
Julius Whitter, offensive lineman from 1970-71, the first African-American to play football at Texas

Texas A&M
Hugh McElory, wide receiver from 1969-71, first African-American to play at Texas A&M

TCU
Linzy Cole, wide receiver from 1968-71, first African-American to play at TCU

Texas Tech
Danny Hardaway, running back from 1969-70 first African-American to play at Texas Tech

Troy
Cliff Dunham, played in 1971, first African-American to play at Troy

Tulsa
Willie Townes, defensive lineman from 1963-65, first African-American to play at Tulsa

UCLA
Jackie Robinson, halfback from 1939-40, first African American Major League Baseball player, member of highly-integrated UCLA team, 1997 NFF Gold Medal recipient
Woody Strode, end in 1939, member of highly-integrated UCLA team
Kenny Washington, running back from 1937-40, member of highly-integrated UCLA team, 1956 College Football Hall of Fame inductee

Vanderbilt
Taylor Stokes, kicker from 1969-72, first African-American to play at Vanderbilt

Virginia Tech
John Dobbins, fullback from 1971-73, first African-American to play at Virginia Tech

West Virginia
Richard Leftridge, running back from 1963-65, first African-American to play at West Virginia

Wisconsin
Leo Vinton Butts, guard in 1918, first African-American to play at Wisconsin
Ed Withers, defensive halfback from 1949-1951, first African-American at Wisconsin to earn First Team All-American honors

Yale
Levi Jackson, running back from 1946-49, first African-American captain at Yale

Coaches
Sylvester Croom (Mississippi State), coached the Bulldogs from 2004-08, first African-American head coach in Southeastern Conference history
Dennis Green (Northwestern, Stanford), first African-American head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) at Northwestern from 1981-85
Willie Jeffries (South Carolina State, Wichita State, Howard), coached from 1973-2001, first African-American head coach in Division I history (1979, Wichita State), 2010 College Football Hall of Fame inductee
Eddie Robinson (Grambling State), coached the Tigers from 1941-97, first college football coach to break the 400-win barrier, namesake of Football Writers Association of America’s coach of the year trophy and Grambling State’s stadium, 1997 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, 1992 NFF Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award recipient, sent more than 200 players to the NFL – including the league’s first African-American player Tank Younger (a 2000 College Football Hall of Fame inductee)
Tyrone Willingham, first African-American head coach to take a team to the Rose Bowl

Administrators
Gene Smith, Notre Dame Defensive End from 1973-76, NACDA first African-American President, 2008 NFF John L. Toner Award recipient (Eastern Michigan, Iowa State, Arizona State, Ohio State)
Ozzie Newsome, Alabama WR from 1974-77, first African-American NFL General Manager, 1994 College Football Hall of Fame Inductee


 

 

 

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