History of the first African-American NFL player can be a bit complicated. There's African-American players who've signed contracts and were player-coaches. Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall were the first African-American NFL players in the league, making their debuts in 1920 (the NFL only had player/coaches back then, so Pollard was the first black coach as well). But who was the first African-American player drafted in the NFL?
George Taliaferro was the first African-American player drafted in the NFL, taken in the 13th round of the 1949 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Taliaferro never played for the Bears, though; he elected to play for the Los Angeles Dons in the All-American Football Conference. He did enter the NFL after the AAFC in 1950, going on to play for the New York Yanks, Dallas Texans, Baltimore Colts, and the Philadelphia Eagles. He made the Pro Bowl in three straight seasons (1951 to 1953).
Taliaferro was a versatile player, playing seven positions in his football career--quarterback, running back, wide receiver, punter, kick returner, punt returner, and defensive back. He ended his football career with 2,266 rushing yards on 498 carries, 15 rushing touchdowns, 95 receptions for 1,300 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns, and 1,633 passing yards with ten touchdowns and 29 interceptions. Taliaferro was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981, starring on a Indiana Hoosier team that went 9-0-1 in 1945. Taliaferro passed away last October.
Photo Courtesy of Indiana University
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