Hall Recall: Fritz Pollard

07/27/2005

By Gil Brandt, NFL.com
Special to Profootballhof.com

Even with a scarce number of African-Americans playing football after the turn of the 20th century, Hall of Fame Class of 2005 inductee Fritz Pollard  excelled in the game and made a mark so prominent his accomplishments are still being echoed today.

Pollard was an All-America halfback who transferred from Bates College in Maine to the prestigious Ivy League school Brown University in Rhode Island. He led the Bears to the Rose Bowl in 1915, where his team lost to Washington State 14-0.

It wasn't until 1919 that Pollard became a professional player due to service in the army. Upon returning from his military duties, he played four games with the Akron Pros. This was one year before the American Professional Football Association became the National Football League as we know it today.

In 1920, Pollard was one of only two African-Americans playing in the new league. And Pollard promptly led his Pros to the first-ever championship with an 8-0-3 record. Ties didn't count back then -- they were thrown out. At that time, an 11-1 team would lose out to an 8-0-3 team. But that wasn't the case here. The Decatur Staleys finished second at 10-1-2.

Newspaper accounts of the time said Pollard was fast and elusive, and he was the most feared running back in the league. In 1921, Pollard earned another distinction, becoming the first African-American head coach in NFL history when he was named co-coach of the Akron team. Over time, Pollard also coached the Milwaukee Badgers, Hammond Pros and the Providence Steam Roller. From 1927-1933 Pollard organized and coached the Chicago Brown Bombers, an independent team of African-Americans that played games in and around Chicago in the fall and played winter games against West Coast teams.

Pollard went on to have a highly successful business career and was elected to the college Hall of Fame in 1954.

Those who are deserving

I think it's wonderful that the nine-member seniors committee has done such a great job of researching players who were so vital to the success of the NFL as we know it now. Since 1972, when the selection of a senior nominee was added to the process, 25 players have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That list includes George AllenBob BrownLeroy KellyHank StramDoak Walker and Dave Wilcox . I, for one, can't wait to see who will be nominated in the senior selection class for 2006.

Just like with my last installment of the Hall recall with Benny Friedman, here are more interesting factoids about the newest Hall of Famers and those already enshrined:

 Of the 29 quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame, only one -- Steve Young -- is left-handed.
 There are no punters and only one placekicker (Jan Stenerud ) in the Hall.
 From 1947 to 1958, the first overall selection in the draft was a bonus pick awarded to the winner of a random draw. Two of these 12 players -- Chuck Bednarik (Eagles) and Paul Hornung  (Packers) -- are in the Hall of Fame.
 Nine players selected No. 1 overall in the draft are enshrined. Steve Young, who was selected No. 1 overall in the 1984 Supplemental Draft, will bring that number up to 10.
 Ernie Nevers played the fewest seasons (five) and the fewest games (54) of any player in the Hall of Fame. On the flip side, George Blanda played the most seasons (26) and the most games (340) of anyone else in the Hall.
 Dan Marino and Steve Young both were elected in their first year of eligibility.
 A total of 14 Hall of Famers have been selected as Super Bowl MVP, including Steve Young in Super Bowl XXIX.
 Don Shula has been to the most Super Bowls, player or head coach (six).
 Dan Marino is the first player ever to pass for over 5,000 yards in a single season. Joe Namath  was the first 4,000-yard QB back in 1967. Both of these guys were born in western Pennsylvania.
 The top four quarterbacks of all time for fourth-quarter comebacks are now in the Hall of Fame. 1) John Elway (43); 2) Dan Marino (37); 3) Joe Montana (31); 4) Jim Kelly  (24)
 Dan Marino holds eight NFL records:
          Most pass attempts: 8,358
          Most completions: 4,967
          Most yards passing: 61,361
          Most touchdown passes: 420
          Most passing yards (season): 5,084
          Most 400-plus-yard games (career): 13
          Most 400-plus-yard games (season): 4
          Most 300-plus-yard games (career): 60

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