George Taliaferro, 1st African American NFL Draft Pick, Dies at Age 91

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2018

George Taliaferro (20) of the New York Yankees football team, is shown in New York, Nov. 2, 1950. Taliaferro was the first African-American to be drafted by an NFL team. (AP Photo/Murray Becker)
Murray Becker/Associated Press

George Taliaferro, who was the first African American player drafted in NFL history, died Monday evening.

He was 91.

George Taliaferro Sport Assoc. @IU_GTSA

We regret to announce that our namesake of the organization has passed away. George Taliaferro was truly a role model in the Bloomington community. We will continue to make sure his legacy lives on here and throughout the country! https://t.co/Wlxrrh33th

Taliaferro was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1949, though he never played for the team as a week earlier he had signed with the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference. His NFL career began a year later with the New York Yanks (1950-51) before stints with the Dallas Texans (1952), Baltimore Colts (1953-54) and Philadelphia Eagles (1955).

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard shared their thoughts on the NFL and Indiana Hoosiers star upon learning of his death:

Jim Irsay @JimIrsay

Rest in peace, George Taliaferro. Not only 1st African-American drafted into NFL, but also league's 2nd African-American QB. A trailblazer and true gentleman, George graced us with his presence at a recent home game. One of our last connections to pro football of the '40s/50s.

Jordan Howard @JHowardx24

Rest In Peace to George Taliaferro, A true Pioneer and IU Legend https://t.co/nRd6xp56Gr

Taliaferro, who played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back, punter, kick returner and punt returner during his career, appeared in three Pro Bowls (1951-53).

His diversity of positions led to a diversity in statistical achievements: 2,266 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns; 95 receptions for 1,300 yards and 12 scores; 1,633 passing yards for 10 touchdowns and 29 interceptions; 35 forced fumbles and 13 fumble recoveries.

"I'm the one person in the history of the NFL to play seven positions," Taliaferro told Jerry Bembry of The Undefeated in September 2017. "When I went on the field, the game was over when I came off."

After his playing career, Taliaferro served as a professor at both Maryland and Indiana and the dean of students at Morgan State, and held several other professional positions.


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