Welcoming Committee: Fritz Pollard

07/21/2005

Art ShellBy Art Shell, Class of 1989
Special to Profootballhof.com

Editor's Note: When Hall of Famer Art Shell was hired as head coach of the Los Angeles Raiders in 1989, he became the first African-American head coach in the modern era of professional football - but he was the second African-American head coach overall, following in the footsteps of 2005 enshrinee Fritz Pollard.

Shell welcomes Pollard, who passed away in 1986, as if Fritz was present for his induction into the Hall of Fame on August 7th.

Fritz, it is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's an honor that has been a long time coming for you, and it is well deserved. You set the standard for football players back in the early days, and now that you are enshrined in the Hall, that standard will never be forgotten.

 The first time I really learned about your story was at the Hall, back in 1979 when I was still playing for the Raiders and we were in Canton for the Hall of Fame Game. The night before the game, we took a short tour of the Hall, and the exhibit that drew my attention the most was a short film about you.

<a data-popupid=Fritz Pollard" hspace="3" src="/cms/images/spacer.gif" width="150" align="left" vspace="3" border="1" /> I had no idea at the time that I might end up following in your pioneering footsteps.

I knew all about Marion Motley and other African-American football pioneers of the '40s, but I had no idea of your exploits two decades earlier. I kept watching that video, calling over some of my teammates so they could see it as well. And after watching that film, I tried to find out more about you. I learned that you were one of just two African-American players when the American Pro Football Association (later renamed the NFL) was formed in 1920. An elusive halfback, you led the Akron Pros to the inaugural APFA title. One year later, you made history by becoming a co-coach of the Pros.

Coach
Team
Romeo Crennel Browns
Tony Dungy Buccaneers, Colts
Herman Edwards Jets
Dennis Green Vikings, Cardinals
Marvin Lewis Bengals
Fritz Pollard Akron Pros
Terry Robiske* Redskins, Browns
Ray Rhodes Eagles, Packers
Art Shell Raiders
Lovie Smith Bears
*Interim head coach
And now that you are in the Hall of Fame, we actually share company in two different fraternities. In addition to the Hall, we are both members of Alpha Phi Alpha. When I was named head coach of the Raiders, I remember getting a copy of Alpha Phi Alpha's magazine-The Sphynx -and the cover featured a picture of you throwing a football. The headline read, "The Passing of the Torch." You were passing the torch to me, and that is a feeling I'll never forget.  

I was surprised that you were not already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but sometimes it's just a matter of time. There is a place for "pioneers" in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and you certainly qualify.

I'm just very excited to see you immortalized in the Hall. It is a great honor for you and your family. And now your history will forever be enshrined in Canton.

 

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