Firsts by African Americans in the modern era of the NFL (post-World War II), according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame:
First African American drafted by NFL club
George Taliaferro, halfback (Indiana). Picked by Chicago Bears in 13th round of 1949 draft but elected to sign with the Los Angeles Dons of the AAFC. Played with the Dons 1949; New York Yanks 1950-51; Dallas 1952; Baltimore 1953-54; Philadelphia 1955.
First African American draftee to play in NFL
Wally Triplett, halfback (Penn State). Picked by the Detroit Lions in 19th round of 1949 draft. Played with Detroit 1949-1950; Chicago Cardinals 1952-53.
First star from a predominantly African American college
Paul “Tank” Younger, fullback/ linebacker (Grambling). L.A. Rams 1949-1957; Pittsburgh 1958.
First African American quarterback
Willie Thrower (Michigan State), Chicago Bears 1953.
First African American official
Burl Toler (University of San Francisco), field judge/head linesman, 1965-89.
First African American referee
Johnny Grier (University of D.C.), 1988.
First pros from predominantly African American schools
Ezzret Anderson, end (Kentucky State), Los Angeles Dons (AAFC), 1947; John Brown, center (North Carolina College), Los Angeles Dons (AAFC), 1947; Elmore Harris, halfback (Morgan State), Brooklyn, 1947.
First African American lineman to win all-league honors
AAFC—Bill Willis, guard (Ohio State), Cleveland, 1946; NFL—Bill Willis, guard, Cleveland, 1950.
First African American back to win all-league honors
AAFC—Marion Motley, fullback (South Carolina State; Nevada), Cleveland, 1946; NFL—Marion Motley, fullback, Cleveland, 1950.
First African American to win individual league statistical championship
AAFC—Marion Motley, fullback. Cleveland, 1946 (rushing); NFL—Marion Motley, fullback, Cleveland, 1950 (rushing).
First African American elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame
Emlen Tunnell, defensive back (Iowa), New York Giants 1949-1958, Green Bay 1959-1961: elected 1967.
First African American starting quarterback in a Super Bowl
Doug Williams, Washington Redskins, Super Bowl XXII (following the 1987 season).
First African American general manager
Ozzie Newsome, Baltimore Ravens, 2002.
First African American referee in a Super Bowl
Mike Carey, Super Bowl XLII.
First African American head coach
Fritz Pollard, 1921 Akron, 1925 Hammond.
First African American head coach, modern era
Art Shell, 1989 Los Angeles Raiders.
First African American assistant coach
Lowell Perry, 1957 Pittsburgh Steelers.
First African American head coach to take team to Super Bowl
Lovie Smith, 2006 Chicago Bears; Tony Dungy, 2006 Indianapolis Colts.