68% of the players in the NFL are Black. But professional football had to start with one man. That man was Charles W. Follis. Born in 1879 in Cloverdale, Virginia, Follis was the third of seven children. While in college he declined playing for his school and instead played for an athletic club. In 1901 he joined the Shelby Blues who were a part of the APFA which is now the NFL. After five years of playing he was injured and his career was over. He also managed to play baseball in the Negro Leagues as a catcher as well as a power hitter because boredom is a bitch. This was during the crazy time of football where the helmets had no guards and were made of leather.
Follis died in 1910 from pneumonia at the age of 31 because back then if you sneezed you started writing your will. It wasn't even until 1975 that it was widely discovered that he even played by finding old newspaper clippings and seeing that he had signed with a team. Nowadays if you turned on a game and saw zero Black guys you'd think you were in an alternate dimension. Imagine being the first Black man on a football field. That shit would've been terrifying.
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