Frederick “Fritz” Pollard

One of the first black trailblazers of professional football, Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard established a series of firsts. He was the NFL’s first African-American coach and the first black person to play in the Rose Bowl (in 1915). This athletically gifted Chicagoan attended Brown University on a scholarship from the Rockefeller family in 1915. He played for the Akron Pros in the American Professional Football League (which was renamed the NFL in 1922) and won a championship for them in 1920.

In 1921, Pollard became head coach while still playing pro. He coached NFL teams in Indiana and Milwaukee until the NFL segregated the organization in 1926. Pollard fought back against the NFL’s decision until 1937, when he retired to pursue a career in business. Though the NFL discontinued segregation in 1946, actual integration didn’t occur until 1962 when Bobby Mitchell signed on with the Washington Redskins. Pollard died in 1986. Three years later, Art Shell became the first black coach (for the Oakland Raiders) in the contemporary NFL. Pollard was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.

Frederick “Fritz” Pollard is found in...

10 Athletes That Changed Sports History
( 10 items )
Item Position (rank): 5