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"It was evident in my first year at Akron back in1919, that they didn’t want blacks in there getting that money. And here I was, playing and coaching and pulling down the highest salary in pro football.”
Frederick Douglass Pollard ... All-American halfback ... A pro football pioneer ... Began career in 1919 with Akron (OH) Pros ... Helped Akron become NFL's first champion, 1920 ... One of just two African Americans in the NFL at time ... NFL's first African American head coach, 1921 ... Exciting, elusive runner ... Played and sometimes coached four different teams in NFL career ... Born January 27, 1894 in Chicago, Illinois ... Died May 11, 1986, at age of 92.
Fritz Pollard, an All-America halfback from Brown University was a pro football pioneer in more ways than one. The 5-9, 165-pound back, who led Brown to the Rose Bowl in 1915, turned pro in 1919, when he joined the Akron (OH) Pros following army service during World War I. In 1920, the Pros joined the newly founded American Professional Football Association, later renamed the National Football League. That season, with Pollard leading the charge, the Pros went undefeated (8-0-3) to win the league's first crown.
As a member of the new league, Pollard immediately earned a place in pro football history as one of just two African Americans in the new league. In 1921 he earned another distinction becoming the first African American head coach in NFL history when the Pros named him co-coach of the team.
Contemporary accounts indicate that Pollard, an exciting elusive runner, was the most feared running back in the fledgling league. During his pro football career the two-time All-America played and sometimes coached for four different NFL teams, the Pros/Indians (1920-21/1925-26), the Milwaukee Badgers (1922), the Hammond Pros (1923, 1925), and the Providence Steam Roller (1925). Fritz also spent time in 1923 and 1924 playing for the Gilberton Cadamounts, a strong independent pro team in the Pennsylvania “Coal League.”
In 1928, Pollard organized and coached the Chicago Black Hawks, an all-African American professional team based in the Windy City. Pollard's Black Hawks played against white teams around Chicago, but enjoyed their greatest success by scheduling exhibition games against West Coast teams during the winter months. From 1929 until 1932 when the Depression caused the team to fold, the Black Hawks had become one of the more popular teams on the West Coast.
Pollard's career was completed prior to the NFL's first championship game.
Up until 1933, the NFL's champion was determined by the best win-loss record during the regular season.
Pollard was a key member of the NFL's first champion, the Akron Pros who posted a league-best 8-0-3 record in the league's inaugural season in 1920.
All-NFL: 1920 (RI)
The Pro Bowl series began following Pollard's career
Year-by-Year Team Records
* League champions. Prior to 1932, the NFL's champion was determined by the best record during the regular season.
Full Name: Frederick Douglass Pollard
Birthdate: January 27, 1894
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
High School: Albert G. Lane Tech (Chicago, IL)
Died: May 11, 1986 at Silver Spring, Maryland
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: February 5, 2005
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: August 7, 2005
Represented by: Steven Towns, Fritz's grandson
Presenter: Fritz Pollard III, Fritz's grandson
Other Members of the Class of 2005: Benny Friedman, Dan Marino, Steve Young
Pro Career: 8 Seasons
Drafted: Pollard played prior to the NFL Draft being implemented.
Uniform Number: #1 (also wore #11 briefly during his career)