Wally Triplett, First African-American to be Drafted Into the NFL to Play in a Regular-Season Game, Dies at 92

Veteran halfback Wally Triplett of Penn State U., originally from La Mott, Pa., shown July 30, 1953, in his second year with Chicago Cardinals and fourth year in National Football League. He was obtained near end of last season from Detroit Lions and is a real speedster who plays both offense and defense. Triplett is 5-10, weighs 175, is 27-years-old. (AP Photo)

Wally Triplett, the former Detroit Lions running back who was the first African-American player drafted into the NFL to play in a regular-season game, died on Thursday, according to a Lions news release. He was 92.

“As the first African-American to be drafted and to play in the National Football League, Wally is one of the true trailblazers in American sports history,” the Lions said in the release. “He resides among the great men who helped reshape the game as they faced the challenges of segregation and discrimination.

“His contributions date back to his days at Penn State as the Nittany Lions’ first African-American starter and varsity letter-winner, highlighted by his appearance in the first integrated Cotton Bowl. Wally’s legacy also reaches beyond breaking color barriers, having served in the United States Army during the Korean War.

“We fondly reflect on his great achievements and send our heartfelt condolences to the Triplett family.”

Triplett played for the Lions in 1949 and 1950 after being selected in the 19th round of the 1949 NFL draft; he was the third black player taken in that draft but the first of the group to play in a regular-season game.

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SOURCE: USA Today; Detroit Free Press