Hidden History: Celebrating NFL legend George Taliaferro

Hidden History

A highlight of this year’s Super Bowl was the NFL’s pre-game celebration that paid homage to its trailblazers and icons for its 100th season.

One of those trailblazers is a Hoosier, George Taliaferro.

Taliaferro is a National Football League legend. He’s the first black man to be drafted to the NFL. Before that, Taliaferro broke barriers in the halls and on the field of IU in Bloomington.

“George Taliaferro was not only one of the ten greatest football players ever at Indiana university, I would argue he’s one of the ten greatest men ever at Indiana University,” said Mark Deal, IU’s assistant athletic director for alumni relations.

Taliaferro was a three-time All-American and the leading rusher on IU’s 1945 Big Ten Championship team. Then in 1949, he helped open the door for the thousands of black athletes that have and will come after when he was drafted to the NFL.

“The impact of what he really did in terms of today’s football, you can’t even measure it,” said Taliaferro’s daughter, Renee Buckner.

Taliaferro was a man of many talents in the NFL. He played quarterback, running back, punted and even lined up on defense. Taliaferro spent seven years in the league and accumulated three Pro Bowl honors.

But it’s what he did after his playing days that those closest to him say defined him.

Taliaferro returned to Bloomington to spend a career with the administration. He worked to advance opportunities for African Americans and other minorities.

“He wasn’t just in the president’s office trying to make sure that diversity happened at Indiana University, he was in the football locker room, basketball locker room, women’s sports, you name it,” Buckner said.

George’s biggest focus, however, wasn’t sports, but education.

“He was just adamant to the fact that our children needed to have guidance and support and education. And if adults don’t give that to them, where are they going to get it?” Buckner recalled.

If Taliaferro had a mission in life, it was to pave the way for those who came after him. Breaking down walls so others could follow. It’s a legacy that those currently at IU benefit from today

“We’re never going to let his story or his spirit die at IU,” Deal said.

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