Trailblazer and trendsetter George Taliaferro, the first African-American player to be drafted by the NFL, died Monday. He was 91 years old.
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).
Remember way back in 1996, when the NFL was going crazy because then Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart was lining up all over the field on offense? Well, Taliaferro was the original “Slash.” He played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back, punter, kick returner and punt returner during his career. He earned three Pro Bowl appearances (1951-53).
Because they could put Taliaferro anywhere on the field, he ended his career with “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,” Bleacher Report notes.
“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.”
Once he hung up his cleats, Taliaferro went on to teach at the University of Maryland and Indiana University and was Dean of Students at Morgan State.