IU football legend George Taliaferro dies at 91

George Taliaferro, the trailblazing and revered Indiana University football legend, died Monday.

He was 91.

Taliaferro was the first African-American player drafted by an NFL team, a 13th round selection by the Chicago Bears in 1949. As a football player for the Hoosiers, Taliaferro was a three-time All-American who starred for the program’s only undefeated team in 1945. He led IU in rushing, passing and punting in different seasons during his college career, and received Indiana’s most valuable player honors in 1948.

He was named to the National Football Foundation Collegiate Hall of Fame in 1981.

As a longtime member of the Bloomington community, Taliaferro made his mark as so much more than a football legend.

Taliaferro and his wife, Viola, a judge who worked with juveniles, championed young people in Monroe County. He was one of three men to found Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monroe County in 1973.

The Gary native signed his first professional contract with the Los Angeles Dons of the All-American Football Conference, and later played in the NFL for franchises in New York, Dallas, Baltimore and Philadelphia, earning trips to the Pro Bowl in 1951, 1952 and 1953. Playing for the Baltimore Colts in 1953, Taliaferro became the first African-American to play quarterback in the pros.

He returned to Indiana in 1972, working under former IU president John Ryan. Taliaferro, who helped develop the university’s affirmative action plan for all eight campuses, later taught in the IU School of Social Work for 10 years before retiring in 1992.

As a student, Taliaferro developed a friendship with former Indiana University President Herman B Wells, with whom he worked to desegregate the Bloomington campus. In 2011, Taliaferro became the first recipient of the Big Ten’s Tony Dungy-Anthony Thompson Humanitarian Award.

After living in Bloomington for 42 years, George and Vi moved to West Chester, Ohio to be near their daughters.

4 comments

  1. IUFB already lost a great gentleman this year when coach Mallory died, now IUFB loses another great gentleman with the death of Taliaferro. Someone wrote that George was a trailblazer for AA in our country but I would make the point he was a trailblazer for all. He showed so many that you couldn’t hold down a determined man who acted as a gentleman throught his life. He came back to Bloomington and improved the community with his efforts and actions. Taliaferro was a true treasure for IU and our state, he will be missed.

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