Latin-Americans in Pro Football

Pro Football's Hispanic Heritage 

Pioneers, Milestones and Firsts

By Mario Longoria
Special to

In 2000, Heidi Cadwell contacted the Pro Football Hall of Fame about donating her grandfather's NFL contract from 1927. Her call was of great interest to the Hall because at the time it was widely believed that Jesse Rodriguez, a fullback-punter with the 1929 Buffalo Bisons, was the first Hispanic player in NFL history.

Further research by the Hall of Fame and Hispanic historian Mario Longoria confirmed that, in fact, Ignacio "Lou" Molinet played in the NFL in 1927. Molinet, a native of Chaparra, Cuba, played nine games for the Frankford Yellowjackets that season.


The contract of Ignacio Molinet, the first Hispanic-American player in the NFL.
Click on image to view.

Ignacio Saturnino "Lou" Molinet, Halfback, Cornell University, 1927 Frankford Yellowjackets

Jesse Rodriguez, Fullback/Punter, Salem College
1929 Buffalo Bisons

Kelly Rodriguez, Halfback, West Virginia Wesleyan College
1930-31 Frankford Yellowjackets/Minneapolis Red Jackets

Waldo Don Carlos, Center, Drake University
Played 1931 Green Bay Packers


Joe Aguirre, End, St. Mary's College of California
1941, 1943-45 Washington Redskins, 1946-49 Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC)

Steve Van Buren, Running Back, Louisiana State
1944-1951 Philadelphia Eagles

Peter Perez, Guard, University of Illinois
1945 Chicago Bears

Eddie Saenz, Halfback, USC
1946-1951 Washington Redskins

John Sanchez, Tackle, University of San Francisco
1947 Detroit Lions, 1947-49 Washington Redskins, 1949-1950 New York Giants

Gonzalo Morales, Halfback, St. Mary's College of California
Played 1947-48 Pittsburgh Steelers

Tom Fears, End, UCLA
1948-1956 Los Angeles Rams

Daniel Garza, End, University of Oregon
1949 New York Yankees (AAFC), 1950 New York Yanks

Ebert Van Buren, Linebacker/Fullback, Louisiana State
1951-53 Philadelphia Eagles

Ray Romero, Guard, Kansas State University
1951 Philadelphia Eagles

Joe Arenas, Halfback, University of Omaha-Nebraska
1951-57 San Francisco 49ers

Genaro "Gene" Brito, End, Loyola University
1951-53, 1955-58 Washington Redskins, 1959-1960 Los Angeles Rams

George Maderos, Defensive Back, Chico State University
1955-56 San Francisco 49ers

Ricardo Jose "Rick" Casares, Fullback, University of Florida
Played 1955-1964 Chicago Bears, 1965 Washington Redskins, 1966 Miami Dolphins

Alex Bravo, Defensive Back, California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo
1957-58 Los Angeles Rams, 1960-61 Oakland Raiders

Hispanic American Firsts in the Modern Era

First Hispanic American Drafted by a NFL Club: Joe Aguirre, End (St. Mary's College of California) Picked by the Washington Redskins in the ninth round of the 1941 draft.

Tom Flores

First Hispanic American Quarterback in the NFL: Tom Flores (Pacific), Oakland Raiders (AFL) 1960

First Hispanic American to Win All-League Honors: Joe Aguirre, End (St. Mary's College of California), Washington Redskins, 1943

First Hispanic American to Win Individual League Statistical Championship: Steve Van Buren, Running Back (LSU), Philadelphia Eagles 1944 (punt retun yardage)

First Hispanic American Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: Steve Van Buren, Running Back (LSU), Philadelphia Eagles 1944-1951, elected 1968

First Hispanic American Selected First Overall in the NFL Draft: Jim Plunkett, Quarterback (Stanford), New England Patriots 1971.

Tom Fears

Coaching Firsts by Hispanic Americans

First Hispanic American Head Coaches: Tom Fears, 1967-70 New Orleans Saints and 1974-75 Southern California Sun (WFL); Tom Flores, 1979-1988 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, and 1992-94 Seattle Seahawks.

First Hispanic American Assistant Coaches
Steve Van Buren, 1952 Philadelphia Eagles; Tom Fears, 1959, 1962-64 Green Bay Packers, 1960-61 Los Angeles Rams, 1965 Atlanta Falcons; Tom Flores, 1971 Buffalo Bills, 1972-78 Oakland Raiders.

Pete Rodriguez, 1983-84 Michigan Panthers (USFL), 1985 Denver Gold (USFL), 1986 Jacksonville Bulls (USFL), 1987 Ottawa Rough Riders (CFL), 1988-89 Los Angeles Raiders, 1990-93 Phoenix Cardinals, 1994-97 Washington Redskins, 1998-2001 Seattle Seahawks.