OTD 69 Years Ago: Chicago Bears Will Thrower First African American Quarterback
Looking back at the past can always be a wake-up call to realize that some of the things we believe to have occurred so long ago really happened in a much shorter time period than we think.
For example, Rosa Parks was alive until 2005 which was just 17 years ago, and lets you know that Jim Crow Laws were abolished in the 60s, just some 50 years ago.
With legal segregation and discrimination still at an all-time high, Black communities were looking for a way to become equal and sports were one of the avenues they took. The color barrier in multiple sports was beginning to be broken, leaving the Olympics out of it and only looking at American professional sports, Jackie Robinson was the first.
He was followed by many others in all kinds of sports, but in the NFL, being a quarterback was one of the last.
Becoming the first African American football player in any position is a big deal but as well all know now, the biggest deal of them all was the quarterback.
The signal-caller has always been the position that's looked at as most important, the best, and the leader out on the field when the coach was on the sideline. So inherently, this position was always given to white men of a certain status until October 18th, 1953.
Willie Thrower, an African American Quarterback who played at Michigan State University would become the first to suit up for the position in the NFL. He was the first Black quarterback in the Big Ten Conference as well and split time with the other quarterbacks at MSU before graduating and being offered an NFL contract as an undrafted rookie. The Chicago Bears liked what they saw, but not enough to draft him, so they signed him and the rest is history.
In 1953 the Bears were trailing the San Francisco 49ers 35-21 when head coach George Halas decided George Blanda wasn't playing well enough so he subbed his roommate, Willie Thrower to replace him. Thrower had instant success before his predecessor was put back in the game to finish the drive off on the goal line, so much so that they decided to finish the game out with Thrower behind center.
Thrower would go on to put up a 3-8 for 27-yard performance, no touchdowns, and one interception in their loss to the 49ers and would never make another pass attempt in the NFL.
That doesn't matter though as his short time in the second half of this game was historical. After 69 years, looking back Willie Thrower was monumental as the NFL is full of great retired and active Black quarterbacks.