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First black player drafted to NFL dies

PICTURED: George Taliaferro (Image: George Taliaferro Sport Association)

GEORGE TALIAFERRO, the first black American football player to be drafted to the NFL, has died.

Taliaferro, who first made a name for himself as a running back at Indiana University, was 91 years old.

His cause of death was heart failure, the New York Times has reported.

Football fans and players have shared their condolences.

Indiana Football tweeted: “Legend. Trailblazer. Hoosier. Simply put, George Taliaferro was a great man and will be greatly missed.”

Indiana Football’s head coach said: “Our hearts are heavy as we appreciate what George Taliaferro has done for the sport of football and Indiana University, Bloomington.”

During his tenure at Indiana University, Taliaferro shone on the field and was regarded as one of the standout stars of college football. In 1949, he became the first black athlete to be chosen to join an NFL team.

Although he was a success on the football field, Taliaferro was subjected to discrimination and racism both during and outside of the games he played.

He joined the Chicago Bears but never actually played for them. Prior to being drafted by the Bears, he had signed with the Los Angeles Dons, a team of the All-American Football Conference as it had desegregated at a faster rate than the NFL, which at the time had very few black players.

George Halas, the owner and coach of the Bears described Taliaferro as the first black player he “felt could make the team”, the New York Times reported.

Taliaferro, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, also played for the New York Yanks, the Dallas Texans, the Baltimore Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles.

After retiring from the sport, the father-of-four became a social worker and then returned to Indiana University as a special assistant to the president of the university.

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