Fritz Pollard

Frederick Douglass "Fritz" Pollard (January 27, 1894 – May 11, 1986) was the first African American head coach in the National Football League (NFL). Pollard along with Bobby Marshall were the first two African American players in the NFL in 1920. Football pioneer Walter Camp ranked Pollard as "one of the greatest runners these eyes have ever seen."

Fritz Pollard
Fritz Pollard
Personal information
Born:January 27, 1894
Chicago, Illinois
Died:May 11, 1986 (aged 92)
Silver Spring, Maryland
Height:5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight:165 lb (75 kg)
Career information
High school:Lane Tech (Chicago, Illinois)
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR
Coaching stats at PFR

Early life

He attended Albert Grannis Lane Manual Training High School, also known as "Lane Tech," where he played football, baseball, and ran track. Pollard attended Brown University, majoring in chemistry. Pollard played halfback on the Brown football team, which went to the 1916 Rose Bowl.[1] He was the first black football player at Brown.[2] He became the first black running back to be named to Walter Camp's All-America team.

Pollard and Robeson
Pollard (left) and Paul Robeson in a photo from the March 1918 issue of The Crisis

He later played pro football with the Akron Pros, the team he would lead to the NFL (APFA) championship in 1920. In 1921, he became the co-head coach of the Akron Pros, while still maintaining his roster position as running back. He also played for the Milwaukee Badgers, Hammond Pros, Gilberton Cadamounts, Union Club of Phoenixville and Providence Steam Roller. Some sources indicate that Pollard also served as co-coach of the Milwaukee Badgers with Budge Garrett for part of the 1922 season. He also coached the Gilberton Cadamounts, a non-NFL team. In 1923 and 1924, he served as head coach for the Hammond Pros.[3]

Pollard, along with all nine of the black players in the NFL at the time, were removed from the league at the end of the 1926 season, never to return again. He spent some time organizing all-black barnstorming teams, including the Chicago Black Hawks in 1928 and the Harlem Brown Bombers in the 1930s.

Pollard coached Lincoln University (Pennsylvania)'s football team during the 1918 to 1920 seasons [4] and served as athletic director of the school's World War I era Students' Army Training Corps. During 1918–1919, he led the team to a victorious season defeating Howard University's Bisons 13–0[5] in the annual Thanksgiving classic as well as Hampton (7–0) on November 9, 1918 and teams of military recruits at Camp Dix (19–0) on November 2, 1918 [6] and Camp Upton (41–0).[7] By the fall of 1920, he had begun to play for Akron, missing key Lincoln losses to Hampton (0–14) and Howard (0–42), much to the consternation of the alumni and administration.[8] Paul Robeson was enlisted by Lincoln's alumni to coach the Thanksgiving 1920 game against Howard.[8]

Pollard later criticized Lincoln's administration, saying they had hampered his ability to coach and had refused to provide adequate travel accommodations for the team. "Prior to the Hampton game, the team was compelled to go to Hampton by boat, sleeping on the decks and under portholes," he told a reporter. "No cabins were provided, nor were they given a place to sleep after reaching Hampton. They lost the game through lack of rest." He also blamed the school for not providing the proper equipment. "I, myself, bought and paid $200 out of my pocket for football shoes for the team." He missed the 1920 Howard game, he said, because his Lincoln salary was so low that he was compelled to augment it with pay from Akron.[9]

Later life

In the 1930s, Pollard founded his own professional football team, the Brown Bombers. The Depression ended the Brown Bombers’ run in 1938, and Pollard went on to other ventures, including a talent agency, tax consulting and film and music production. He produced Rockin' the Blues[10] in 1956, which included such performers as Connie Carroll, The Harptones, The Five Miller Sisters, Pearl Woods,[11] Linda Hopkins, Elyce Roberts, The Hurricanes, and The Wanderers.[12] Pollard also published the first black-owned newspaper in New York City, the New York Independent News, from 1935 to 1942.[13]

Honors and legacy

See also


  1. ^ Reasons and Patrick, "Pollard Set Records as Black Football player, Coach." The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, 1972, February 27, Section E: 5.
  2. ^ Sloan, Louise (January 2016). "A Man of Firsts". Brown Alumni Magazine. Providence, RI: Brown University. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  3. ^ Reasons and Patrick, "Pollard Set Records as Black Football player, Coach." The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, 1972, February 27, Section E: 5.
  4. ^ "Crack Lincoln University Team Coached by Fritz Pollard" Philadelphia Tribune, October 19, 1918
  5. ^ "Lincoln University Victor over Howard" Washington Post November 29, 1918
  6. ^ "Pollard's Orange and Blue Juggernaut Crushes Camp Dix" Philadelphia Tribune, November 9, 1918
  7. ^ "Lincoln Swamps Camp Upton" Chicago Defender, November 30, 1918
  8. ^ a b "Fred Pollard Finishes as Coach for Lincoln" Chicago Defender, December 4, 1920
  9. ^ "Fritz Pollard Answers Critics" Baltimore Afro-American December 17, 1920
  10. ^ "Rockin' the Blues" – via
  11. ^ "Pearl Woods". Discogs.
  12. ^ John M. Carroll (1998). Fritz Pollard: Pioneer in Racial Advancement. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-06799-0.
  13. ^ "Fritz's Fame". Brown University. Brown Alumni News. March 2005. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  14. ^ "03-078 (Fritz Pollard Award)".
  15. ^ "Jim Muldoon inducted into Rose Bowl Hall of Fame". Pac-12. Pac-12 Conference. December 30, 2015. Retrieved February 3, 2016. Also inducted (was) ... Brown’s Fritz Pollard (1916 Rose Bowl Game)
  16. ^ "Mark Brunell, Fritz Pollard, Tyrone Wheatley and Jim Muldoon to be Inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame presented by Northwestern Mutual". Tournament of Roses. Pasadena, CA: Tournament of Roses. September 25, 2015. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  17. ^ "Alpha Athletes at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany". Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Retrieved January 10, 2010.
  18. ^ Brown University – Brown University and the Black Coaches Association establish annual Fritz Pollard Award February 18, 2004

External links

1915 Brown Bears football team

The 1915 Brown Bears football team represented Brown University during the 1915 college football season. The team lost in the second-ever Rose Bowl, and featured Fritz Pollard, Zach Siebel, and Wallace Wade.

1920 Akron Pros season

The 1920 Akron Pros season was the franchise's inaugural season with the American Professional Football Association (APFA) and twelfth total season as a team. The Pros entered the season coming off a 5–5 record in 1919 as the Akron Indians in the Ohio League. The Indians were sold to Art Ranney and Frank Nied, two businessmen, to help achieve a better record and crowd. Several representatives from the Ohio League wanted to form a new professional league; thus, the APFA was created.

Returning to the team for the 1920 season would be most of last year's team, including quarterback Fritz Pollard. The Pros also added end Bob Nash, who previously played for the Tigers, Al Garrett, and end Al Nesser of the famous Nesser brothers. They opened their regular season with a win over the Wheeling Stogies, en route to an 8–0–3 record. In week 11, the Pros traded Bob Nash—the first trade in APFA history. A meeting was held by the APFA to determine a winner, and the Pros' season concluded with the team winning the Brunswick-Balke Collender Cup for finishing first place in the APFA. The Decatur Staleys and the Buffalo All-Americans demanded the title because of the number of wins each team had.

Rip King and Fritz Pollard were named first-team all APFA and Alf Cobb was named second-team all APFA by the Rock Island Argus. The Pros only allowed 7 points all season, which was the lowest among all APFA teams. The 1920 Akron Pros are considered the first team in the history of the APFA to have an undefeated record. This changed with the 1972 rule change, however. In 2005, Pollard became the only player from the 1920 Akron Pros to be elected into the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

1927 NFL season

The 1927 NFL season was the eighth regular season of the National Football League. Prior to the season, the league decided to eliminate the financially weaker teams. As a result, the league dropped from 22 to 12 teams. The league absorbed many players and one franchise (the New York Yankees) from the defunct American Football League. Wilfrid Smith in the Chicago Tribune wrote that "the reduction formed a more compact circuit and provided better competition." Smith opined that the "outstanding feature" of the 1927 NFL season was the debut of Benny Friedman who became one of the game's "best drawing cards" and proved that professional football could support itself in Cleveland.Although five black players participated in the 1926 season (including future Hall of Famer Fritz Pollard), none played during the 1927 season.

The New York Yankees were added from the American Football League (albeit technically as a continuation of the defunct Brooklyn franchise), Cleveland Bulldogs returned and Buffalo Rangers returned to the Buffalo Bisons name. The Bisons suspended operations five games into the season (all losses).

The axed teams were Kansas City Cowboys, Los Angeles Buccaneers, Detroit Panthers, Hartford Blues, Brooklyn Lions, Canton Bulldogs, Milwaukee Badgers, Akron Indians, Racine Tornadoes, Columbus Tigers, Hammond Pros, and Louisville Colonels. The excising of the majority of the Ohio teams left the Dayton Triangles as the last surviving connection to the Ohio League, which served as the basis for the NFL's founding.

The New York Giants were named the NFL champions after finishing the season with the best record. The Giants performance was notable, particularly on defense. They allowed only 20 points in 13 games, including 10 shutout victories.

1989 Los Angeles Raiders season

The 1989 Los Angeles Raiders season was the franchise's 30th season overall, and the franchise's 20th season in the National Football League. Art Shell replaced Mike Shanahan, and in the process became the first black head coach in the NFL since Fritz Pollard coached the Akron Pros in 1921. The club finished with an 8–8 record. In preseason against the Houston Oilers, the Raiders played their first game in Oakland since moving to Los Angeles in 1982, before eventually moving back to Oakland in 1995.

Akron Pros

The Akron Pros were a professional football team that played in Akron, Ohio, from 1908 to 1926. The team originated in 1908 as a semi-pro team named the Akron Indians, but later became Akron Pros in 1920 as the team set out to become a charter member of the American Professional Football Association (later renamed the National Football League (NFL) in 1922). Fritz Pollard, the first black head coach in the NFL, co-coached the Akron Pros in 1921. Paul Robeson played for the team in 1921 as well. He was among the earliest stars of professional football, before football became segregated from 1934 to 1946. In 1926, the name was changed back to the Akron Indians, after the earlier semi-pro team. Due to financial problems, the team suspended operations in 1927 and surrendered its franchise the following year.

Al Nesser

Alfred Louis Nesser (June 6, 1893 – March 1967) was a professional American football offensive lineman. He played for seven teams: Akron Pros, Cleveland Bulldogs, Columbus Panhandles, Akron Indians, New York Giants, and Cleveland Indians in the National Football League (NFL) and the Cleveland Panthers in the first American Football League. He won NFL Championship titles with the Akron Pros in 1920 and the New York Giants in 1927. During his career, Nesser played against Charlie Copley, Fritz Pollard and Jim Thorpe.

Although he didn't play college football, prior to the formation of the NFL, Nesser played in the "Ohio League" for the Columbus Panhandles and the Canton Professionals (later renamed the Canton Bulldogs). He was one of the seven Nesser Brothers who played professional football. He became the last Nesser brother to retire from the game, when he ended his playing career in 1931. He was the last football player to play without having to use a mandatory helmet.

Although none of the Nessers have been named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Al was elected to the professional branch of the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame in 1952. In 2004, he was named to the Professional Football Researchers Association Hall of Very Good in the association's second HOVG class

Anthracite League

The Anthracite League, also referred to as the Anthracite Association, was a 1924 football league comprising teams based in eastern Pennsylvania. These teams were based in coal mining towns, hence the league name's reference to anthracite coal. The league lasted for just one season, before folding. The teams in the league were the Coaldale Big Green, Wilkes-Barre Barons, Shenandoah Yellow Jackets, the Gilberton Cadamounts, and the Pottsville Maroons.

Art Ranney

Arthur Fobare Ranney (February 17, 1889 – April 22, 1970) was a co-founder of the American Professional Football Association (later renamed the National Football League in 1922), as an owner of the Akron Pros, one of the league's charter teams. The Pros were renamed the Akron Indians in 1926.

Athletics at the 1936 Summer Olympics – Men's 110 metres hurdles

The men's 110 metres hurdles event at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games took place on August 5 and August 6. The final was won by American Forrest Towns.

Chicago Black Hawks (American football)

The Chicago Black Hawks were an all-African American professional football team established in 1928 by Fritz Pollard (who was also the team's quarterback, running back, coach, and owner). The Black Hawks played against white teams around Chicago, but enjoyed their greatest success by scheduling exhibition games against West Coast teams during the winter months.

Due to poor attendance and the country's economic situation, the team played most of its games on the road, and disbanded three years later in 1932 while playing on the West Coast. Fritz Pollard would return to barnstorming in 1936 with the Harlem Brown Bombers.

Elgie Tobin

Elza Williams "Elgie" Tobin (May 7, 1886 – September 3, 1953) was a professional American football player with the independent Youngstown Patricians and a player-coach with the Akron Pros of the American Professional Football Association (renamed the National Football League in 1922) where he wore number 8. Tobin played with Patricians from 1915 until 1919. When the team folded, Tobin joined the Akron Pros of the newly formed AFPA. In 1920, Tobin coached the Pros to win the first ever NFL Championship. The very next season, he split the team's coaching duties with Fritz Pollard, making Pollard the first African-American coach in the NFL.

Tobin was slated to coach a proposed Youngstown team granted by the National Football League in 1922. However, the project died in the planning stages.

Prior to playing professional football, Tobin played college football at Pennsylvania State University and West Virginia University. He lettered in football for the Mountaineers in 1907. At Penn State, where records list him as "Yegg Tobin," he lettered for three years (1912, 1913, 1914).

Frank Nied

Francis Theodore Nied (August 14, 1894 – May 13, 1969) was a founder of the American Professional Football Association (later renamed the National Football League in 1922), as well as the owner of the Akron Pros and, as the team became known as in 1926, the Akron Indians.

Fritz Pollard Jr.

Frederick Douglas "Fritz" Pollard Jr. (February 18, 1915 – February 15, 2003) was an American athlete who competed mainly in the 110 metre hurdles.

While a student at the University of North Dakota, he was a running back for the football team. He was "picked All North Central Conference in 1937 and 1938, and was a Collier's Magazine Little All-America selection in football in 1938." He also competed as

a member of the university's varsity boxing team. Pollard competed for the United States in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin in the 110 meter hurdles where he won the bronze medal.Pollard graduated from UND with a bachelor's degree majoring in education. He went on to earn a law degree from the John Marshall Law School (Chicago). He also served in the U.S. Army as a special services officer during World War II." Some years after he war, he became a Foreign Service officer and retired in 1981 as the director of the State Department's overseas schools for US citizens.Pollard was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.Pollard's father was Fritz Pollard Sr., the first African American head coach in the National Football League.

Gilberton Cadamounts

The Gilberton Catamounts, sometimes called the Gilberton Cadamounts and the Gilberton Duck Streeters, were a 1920s-era professional football team based in Gilberton, Pennsylvania. However, the team played many of its home games in nearby Mahanoy City because Gilberton's home field, Stoddard Field. was usually flooded. The borough got its "Ducktown" nickname mainly because of persistent flooding.

Guil Falcon

Guilford W. "Hawk" Falcon (December 15, 1892 – July 28, 1982) was a professional American football player, owner and coach who spent six season, from 1920 to 1925, in the National Football League (NFL) with the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Chicago Tigers, Hammond Pros, Rochester Jeffersons and the Toledo Maroons. Guil also served a player-coach during his time with the Tigers and Maroons.

In 1920 the Chicago Tigers and Cardinals playing for the same Chicago fan dollar. Cardinals owner Chris O’Brien offered—and Falcon agreed—to play for the right to represent Chicago in the APFA. The winner would remain as the city’s only professional team, while the loser would fold operations.Paddy Driscoll scored the game’s only touchdown on a 40-yard run and the Cardinals won, 6–3. As promised, the Tigers finished the season with a 2–5–1 record, dropped out of competition, becoming the first NFL/APFA team to fold.

Guil played with Pro Football Hall of Famer, Fritz Pollard during his stints with Akron and Hammond.

Hammond Pros

The Hammond Pros from Hammond, Indiana played in the National Football League from 1920 to 1926 as a traveling team.

John Wooten

John B. Wooten (born December 5, 1936) is a former American football guard who played nine professional seasons in the National Football League (NFL) for the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins. Wooten played college football at the University of Colorado and was drafted in the fifth round of the 1959 NFL Draft.

Ralph Waldsmith

Ralph George "Fat" Waldsmith (August 7, 1892 – June 7, 1925) was a professional football player during the early years of the National Football League. Waldsmith won an NFL championship with the Canton Bulldogs in 1922. before that season, he played for the Cleveland Indians in the American Professional Football Association, which was the run-up to the NFL.

Rooney Rule

The Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy that requires league teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. It is sometimes cited as an example of affirmative action, as there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates. It was established in 2003, and variations of the rule are now in place in other industries.

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