Honoring Black History: Fritz Pollard

Honoring Black History: Fritz Pollard

Eli Topper, Reporter

Amidst the many famous Black athletes, one important name is often overlooked.

Frederick “Fritz” Douglass Pollard Sr. was born in Chicago in 1894. He was a multi-sport athlete, a three-time Cook County track champion, a talented baseball player, and a running back in high school. After graduating, Pollard played football at the collegiate level for Harvard, Northwestern, and Dartmouth before emerging as a star at Brown University. He brought Brown to the promised land, and in 1916, he gave them a bid into one of the most prestigious college football games, the Rose Bowl. Pollard was the first Black person to play in the game and the second Black person to gain All-American honors. Furthermore, he was the second Black person to be elected into the College Football Hall of Fame. 

After serving in World War I, Pollard joined the American Professional Football League (APFL), now commonly known as the National Football League (NFL). As a professional player, he was already headed to Canton as one of the first Black players in the league. That wasn’t his only accomplishment, though, as he won an NFL championship with Akron in 1920, and in 1926, he was the first Black quarterback in the APFL. Regarded as one of the most feared backs in the league, Pollard played until 1926, when he became the head coach for the same team he played for, cementing him as the first Black head coach in NFL history. Pollard also encouraged integration by recruiting Black players, such as Paul Robeson, Jay Mayo Williams, and John Shelbourne. He organized the first interracial all-star game featuring NFL players in 1922. One of the most extraordinary feats a football player can get is to be inducted into Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame – a feat he achieved in 2005, 19 years after his death.  

Many Black athletes have helped break the color barrier, but Pollard’s acts have a lasting effect on the game Americans love more than anything.