George Taliaferro, the first African-American player to be drafted by an NFL team, passed away Monday night at the age of 91.
Taliaferro dubbed the “Jackie Robinson of Football,” was a three-time All-American at Indiana. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 13th round of the 1949 draft, but he never played for the team.
“I knew everybody who ever played with the Bears, that was my team,” Taliferro told The Undefeated last year.
He had already committed to play for the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference. Taliaferro played for the team during the 1949 season. Though he was a Bears fan, he signed with the Dons a week before the NFL draft.
A true athlete, Taliaferro played seven positions — quarterback, running back, wide receiver, punter, kick returner, punt returner, and defensive back. He is the only player in the NFL’s history to have accomplished such a feat.
Taliaferro entered the NFL in 1950 after the AAFC folded and played six seasons, from 1950-1955. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl in three consecutive seasons from 1951 to 1953.
Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted that Taliaferro was “a trailblazer and a true gentleman.”
“I’m the one person in the history of the NFL to play seven positions,” Taliaferro said. “When I went on the field, the game was over when I came off.”
Taliaferro started for the 1945 Hoosiers team that went 9-0-1, the only team in school history to finish undefeated. The same season he became the first African-American player to lead the Big Ten in rushing yards.
Taliaferro was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981.