Lead Author of "Oakland 1970" Uncovers Historical Facts

Damali Binta – Feb 9, 2017

by Peter O'Loughlin,        





     The Canton Ohio Pro Football Hall of Fame has a remarkable new display about the NFL’s players from historically black colleges and universities.  The display  states that the first HBCU player competed in the NFL in 1948; however, it stops short of completing the exercise.  It omits to mention that this entry was preceded during the 1947 season when two HBCU players competed for the Los Angeles Dons in the 1946-1949 All-American Football Conference. 


     Bear in mind that the Hall honors the AAFC. In listing records, the Hall includes all AAFC statistics just as it includes all American Football League stats. The careers of fifteen AAFC players and coaches are enshrined in the Canton Hall.


     This focus on the Hall’s display arises from work by co-authors Peter O’Loughlin and Jacqueline Brannon Giles on a book centering on the Oakland Raiders 1970 season.  This writing project is nearing completion. Entitled Oakland 1970, it traces how the AFL rose as Oakland’s Al Davis, Kansas City’s Hank Stram and other AFL figures out-paced the NFL in signing HBCU players. Among the book’s best parts is the Raiders’ 23-20 November 8, 1970 win over the Cleveland Browns on George Blanda’s last-minute touchdown pass to Warren Wells followed by his 52-yard field goal. This all leads into a section on the AAFC’s challenges to the NFL.  It includes coverage of the high level of play of the AAFC’s three best teams--the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and football New York Yankees.


     In 1946 the first two black players to play in a game in  the AAFC were the Cleveland Browns’ Marion Motley out of the University of Nevada-Reno and Bill Willis out of Ohio State. The All-American Football Conference out-paced the NFL’s removal of the NFL all-white tradition of 1933-1945.  By 1949 the AAFC had twenty black players while the NFL had seven. 1/


      The discussion details how the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission in 1946 required the tenant NFL Rams and AAFC Dons to have black players.  The NFL Rams complied in 1946 with black players Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, both out of UCLA. The Los Angeles Dons—also a good AAFC team--hired black players the next year, 1947. 2/  


      AAFC and NFL rosters are obtained upon a search on the internet.  The roster for the AAFC Los Angeles Dons for 1947 shows players Ezzrett Anderson from Kentucky State and John Brown from North Carolina Central. 3/ Both are historically black colleges.




1/ Piascik, Andy (2006). The Best Show in Football: the 1946-1955 Cleveland Browns. Taylor Publishing. Page 131.


2/ Atwood, Gretchen. (2009, June 10)."Unsung Heroes of Rams Football Integration."  LA Weekly. Retrieved September 28, 2015 from http://www.laweekly.com/news/unsung-heroes-of-rams- football- integration-2160172  


3/ Pro Football Archives. Retrieved Feb. 8, 2017 from http://www.profootballarchives.com/1947aafcla.html 



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