George Taliaferro, first Black American drafted into the NFL, dies at 91

NFL pioneer George Taliaferro has died at the age of 91. Taliaferro was the first Black American to be drafted in the NFL and was celebrated for playing seven positions during his football career. 

The first Black American man drafted in NFL history has died. George Taliafero, who was first drafted in the NFL in 1949 passed away on Monday at the age of 91. 

News of Taliaferro’s death emerged in a tweet by the George Taliaferro Sports Association. The organization announced his passing and commended him as a role model.

“We regret to announce that our namesake of the organization has passed away. George Taliaferro was truly a role model in the Bloomington community. We will continue to make sure his legacy lives on here and throughout the country!”

Taliaferro was the first ever Black American to be drafted in the NFL making him a pioneer on his own. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears but didn’t end up playing with the team. Instead, he played for the Los Angeles Dons for the All American Football conference since he already signed with the team just a week prior to the Bears drafting him. However, he finally played in the NFL the following year with the New York Yankees. His short stint with the Yankees from 1950 to 1951 led him to the Dallas Texans in 1952, Baltimore Colts in 1953 and 1954, and Philadelphia Eagles in 1955.   

Taliaferro played several positions in the NFL including quarterback, running back, wide receiver, punter, kick returner, punt returner, and defensive back. He even bragged about this to The Undefeated last year. 

"I'm the one person in the history of the NFL to play seven positions. When I went on the field, the game was over when I came off."

When asked what his favorite among the positions he’s played, he simply answered,

“Football. I just enjoyed playing football.”

By the end of his professional football career, he had 2,266 rushing yards, 498 carries, 15 rushing touchdowns, 95 receptions for 1,300 yards and 12 touchdown catches, as well as 1,633 passing yards with 10 touchdowns and 29 interceptions.

He was inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 1981. 

While Taliaferro lived a full life prior to his death, former Clemson running back, CJ Fuller died ahead of his time. Just this week, the 22-year-old was reported to have passed away, though the cause of his death was not confirmed. He was still recovering from a surgery to repair his damaged ACL when he collapsed in his home. An autopsy is still being conducted to determine his actual cause of death. 

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