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George Taliaferro (1927 – 2018), first African-American player drafted by an NFL team

AP Photo / Murray Becker

Three-time Pro Bowl selection played seven positions

George Taliaferro (1927 – 2018) was the first African-American player to be drafted by an NFL team. In 1949 the Chicago Bears drafted the All-American halfback out of Indiana University, but Taliaferro did not join the team. Though he was fan of the Bears, he had already signed with the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference. After that league folded in 1950, Taliaferro joined the NFL playing for the New York Yanks and, later, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

Taliaferro played seven positions including halfback, quarterback, receiver, punter, kick returner, punt returner, and defensive back. At IU, he became the first African-American to lead the Big Ten in rushing, and in 1981 was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Though he was a star on the football field, Taliaferro had to deal with segregation and discrimination while a student at Indiana. As a black person, he was not allowed to eat at the cafeteria or live in the dorms. At one point, he called his dad in Gary and told him he wanted to come home and work at the steel plant. His dad refused — it was important that his son get an education — and Taliaferro stayed in school.

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Died: Monday, October 8, 2018 (Who else died on October 8?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 91

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Notable Quote: "I'm the one person in the history of the NFL to play seven positions. When I went on the field, the game was over when I came off."  —Taliaferro told The Undefeated

What people said about him: “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.”  —Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay

Full obituary: Indy Star

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