Pro Player Insiders had a very unique opportunity to speak with the legendary George Taliaferro, the first African American to be drafted into NFL and in honor of Black History Month we are sharing that interview. The retired quarterback and halfback is very proud of his story and was not one bit shy about sharing it:
“I started in 1949 with the Los Angeles Dons in the All American Football Conference. 1950, the All American Football Conference dissolved and there were 4 teams invited to join the National Football League — The Cleveland Browns, The 49ers, The New York Yanks, and one other team. That’s how I got into the National Football League. I was first African American drafted out of college to play for the National Football League, in 1949.”
Taliaferro’s history book accomplishment may have been a victory for Black athletes across the nation, but was a heartbreaking moment for him.
I grew up, I followed the Chicago Bears because I lived in Gary, Indiana, and it was always my wish to play with the Chicago Bears. And when I was drafted out of college, I attended Indiana University; I was drafted by the Chicago Bears. My father told me that a definition of a man was that a man is no better or no worse than his words. Never give your word, unless you die in the attempt to fulfill it. When I was drafted by the Bears, I had already signed the contract to play with the Dons; it was a heartbreaking experience for me not to play with the Chicago Bears. I played against them many times, but unfortunately, a childhood wish was swept beside because I had become a man. I kept my word,” explains the NFL pioneer.
Taliaferro officially moved to the NFL in 1959 as a New York Yank. The 3-time Pro-Bowler also played for the Dallas Texans (1952), the Baltimore Colts (1953-1954), and the Philadelphia Eagles (1955). Although his days of suiting up for Sunday are over, the 85- year old carries on a very active life as a philanthropist involved in numerous charitable foundations.
“I am the Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Directors of the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana. And over a period of 23-years, my board has raised over $60 million to pay for the transplantation expenses of any child in the United States, whose parents are unable to afford the opportunity to give their children a secondchance at life. I have a little girl that lives here in the city of Indianapolis; her name is Lauren. She is one of a set of twins – Lauren is going on 5- years of age, now. And from the age of 1-year, we have transplanted every organ in her body, and she is the most wonderful little girl that God has put on this earth,” says Taliaferro.
The generous-hearted NFL veteran also founded two other organizations aimed to assist financially challenged youths.
“I founded a Big Brother Big Sister program in Bloomington, Indiana in 1972. I [also] recondition golf clubs and golf balls and send them to golf academies all over the United States for underprivileged children to learn the sport.”
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