George Taliaferro, football pioneer and IU star, dies at 91


George Taliaferro (Photo by Chaz Mottinger, Indiana University)

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George Taliaferro, the trailblazing football player who became the first African-American drafted in the NFL, has died at the age of 91.

A high school standout in Gary, Indiana, Taliaferro played college football at Indiana University and led the Hoosiers to a conference championship in 1945. The Chicago Bears drafted him in the 13th round of the 1949 NFL Draft.

Taliaferro, however, decided to sign with the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference before joining the NFL ranks in 1950. He spent time with the New York Yanks, Dallas Texans, Baltimore Colts and Philadelphia Eagles, making the Pro Bowl three times.

Off the field, Taliaferro played a major role in desegregating classrooms in Bloomington. Once his playing days were over, he became a special assistant to former IU President John Ryan as he continued to champion fairness and racial equality.

Indiana University released a statement regarding Taliaferro’s passing and his impact in Bloomington:

“He was a true trailblazer in every sense of the word and an individual of the greatest integrity, whose impact will be forever felt at IU and throughout the Hoosier state.

“In honor of George’s legendary status as an athlete and a champion of racial equality, I am directing that all flags on the IU Bloomington campus be lowered to half-staff until the Sunday after IU’s homecoming football game against Iowa.

“Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to his wife, Vi, to his family and friends, and to the many other individuals whose lives have been touched by this remarkable Indiana legend.”

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