Wally Triplett, Detroit Lion’s Legend & First Black NFL Pioneer Dies At 92

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Wally Triplett, one of the first African-Americans drafted by an NFL team, has died at the age of 92 in his home at Detroit. He played the running back position for the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Cardinals.


Who Is Wally Triplett?

Wally Triplett was born on April 18, 1926, in Philadephia, Pennsylvania. As a kid, he was a talented football player that earned him the spot on the Penn State University varsity football team. In a game against the University of Miami, his team backed him up by canceling a game with UM because they didn’t want to exclude Triplett. It has been a practice back then where schools would refuse to play against integrated schools unless that school agrees to exclude any players who are black from the game.)

Besides his success in college football, Triplett was also one of the co-founders of the Gamma Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha at Penn State.

According to African American Chronicles,  Triplett was drafted by the Detroit Lions after graduating in the 19th round of the 1949 NFL draft. At that time, the presence of American Americans was not uncommon on NFL rosters, but Triplett was the first player to step into a uniform and onto the field.

#Lions Legend Wally Triplett passes away at age 92: https://t.co/qfXGfRTT69 pic.twitter.com/dzaLrtBvRo

— Detroit Lions (@Lions) November 8, 2018

In the Detroit Lions, Triplett played two seasons and proceed to set an NFL record with 294 return yards in one game. This record stood unchallenged for 44 straight years. However, after the 1950 season, he had to leave the NFL for a year of military service to take part in the Korean War. When he returned, Triplett was traded to the Chicago Cardinals played two seasons for them. Even as of today,  his 73.5-yard average per return for the game is still a record according to the NFL.

Triplett was also inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame earlier this year.

The Lion’s wrote in a statement,

“Wally is one of the true trailblazers in American sports history,” the Lions wrote. “He resides among the great men who helped reshape the game as they faced the challenges of segregation and discrimination.”