For the importance of the role he played in college and professional football, few black gridiron fans have any idea who Fritz Pollard was or how he made sports history. Pollard was an All-American halfback who transferred from Bates College in Maine to Brown University in Rhode Island, where he led the Bears to the 1915 Rose Bowl.
He would graduate and go on to be a successful business owner - but not before he would become a sports civil rights pioneer and help shape the infant National Football Legue.
After serving in the U.S. Army, he began his pro football career in 1919 when he played four games with the Akron Pros in the American Professional Football Association. A year later, it became the National Football League.
In 1920, Pollard was one of only two African Americans playing in the league, and he led the Pros to the first-ever championship with an 8-0-3 record. 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.
Pollard later 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.
While he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954, the honor of being selected to the Pro Football hall of Fame would have to wait 51 years. He will be enshrined on Sunday (August 7) more than 19 years after his death at age 92.