With more than 75% of NFL rosters being filled with African-Americans, it is hard to imagine professional football without them. However, this was not always the case. The NFL did not draft its first African-American player until the Chicago Bears in the 13th round of the 1949 draft selected George Taliaferro, a halfback from Indiana University. He elected to sign with the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). He played with the Dons 1949; New York Yanks 1950-51; Dallas Texans 1952; Baltimore Colts 1953-54; and Philadelphia Eagles 1955.
A couple of months ago, I saw Third and Long. It is an interesting documentary on the journey and triumphs of African-Americans in professional football. It explored how the Great Depression and World War II impacted African-Americans in professional football. I was shocked to learn that African-Americans played professional football during the 20’s and 30’s but were dismissed and barred from 1933 – 1946.
The documentary also highlighted the contributions of African-Americans and how they changed the sport. As a marketing professional, my favorite story was of David “Deacon” Jones coining the term “sack.” He was a starting defensive end and revolutionized the position. Jones explained that he started using the term sack because he knew that journalists would not write a headline that read, “Jones tackles a quarterback.” I agree, sack is much more impactful. The new terminology affected salary negotiations for defensive players and became a recorded statistic.
Learn more about African-American pioneers in professional football and check out the NFL’s photo gallery of Firsts by African-Americans in the NFL Modern Era.
Heels & Helmets®
Heels & Helmets®