Who was the first black football player in the NFL?
Frederick Douglass "Fritz" Pollard was an NFL running back that played his college football at Brown University and went on to become a pro football pioneer. During his time at Brown University he lead the team to the prestigious Rose Bowl in 1915.
Pollard turned pro in 1919 after a successful college career, but did not join the league until he finished serving in the Army. After returning from deployment in World War I, Pollard made his debut with the Akron Pros in the 1920 season.
Once Fritz Pollard stepped foot on a professional football field he started to make history, becoming the first African-American to play professional football. Lets take a look at how Fritz Pollard's achievements altered the sport of organized professional football for the better.
Fritz Pollard's NFL Football Career
In Pollard's first year with the Akron Pros he managed to lead the team to a championship. Fritz' play carried the Pros to a record of 8 wins, no losses, and 3 ties during the 1920 season. Pollard would make history again in the 1921 season when he was named co-coach of the Akron Pros.
Fritz Pollard would go on to become the first African-American head coach in NFL history. The two-time All-American would play and coach at the same time for four different teams. Pollard coached and played for the Akron Pros/Indians in 1920, 1921, 1925, and 1926.
When looking at the Pro Football Hall of Fame's website, a quote from Pollard stands out. This statement spoke volumes on how he would change the landscape of football forever. Pollard would take the NFL by storm and pave the path for some of the greatest African-Americans who play the game today.
Pollard's achievements in bringing racial integration to the NFL helped create a more diverse, inclusive, and exciting dynamic. Pollard gave African-Americans the opportunity at a better life by becoming professional athletes. Here is a statement from Pollard, recognizing the magnitude of his accomplishment.
"It was evident in my first year at Akron back in 1919, that they didn’t want blacks in there getting that money. And here I was, playing and coaching and pulling down the highest salary in pro football.”
In addition to being the most polarizing player in the league, Pollard was the highest paid player in pro football in 1919. His achievements paved the way for sweeping changes across the NFL, ensuring that Pollard's place in the Hall of Fame is well-deserved.