The First African-American NFL Coach
Fritz Pollard grew up in Rogers Park, Illinois, a largely white suburb of Chicago. The seventh of eight children, young Fritz experienced racism first hand and learned from his family how to pick his battles and subdue his emotions in order to achieve his goals in a predominantly white world. A three-sport athlete at Lane Tech High, Pollard had notions of attending Dartmouth to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Leslie. But fate intervened. During a stopover in Providence in January 1913, Fritz had his first view of the Van Wickle gates sparkling in the sun; his career at Brown had begun.
During the 1915 and 1916 Brown football seasons, Pollard achieved legendary status, compiling “firsts” as frequently as he gained first downs. The first black to play in the Rose Bowl (1916), Fritz was also named to Walter Camp’s All America Team, and was the first African American in Camp’s backfield. Nicknamed “the human torpedo,” Pollard had almost single-handedly defeated Yale and Harvard (Brown’s first win over the Crimson) in 1916. The Bruins were the first college team to defeat both Ivy powerhouses in the same season. For his exploits at Brown, Pollard was elected to the National College Football Hall of Fame in 1954 — the first African American ever chosen.
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