IU reveals plans to erect statue, rename plaza in honor of George Taliaferro

Indiana has announced plans to honor the legacy of George Taliaferro, a trailblazing IU football legend who broke racial barriers in Bloomington.

During a celebration of life event on IU’s campus Saturday, Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie said the school will erect a statue of Taliaferro in the newly-renamed George Taliaferro Plaza outside the North End Zone complex at Memorial Stadium.

Taliaferro, who died on Oct. 8, 2018 at age 91, is remembered as an egalitarian who fought injustice on behalf of all Hoosiers, leaving a legacy of humility, kindness and shared sense of purpose.

“The renamed plaza and new statue will honor George’s many contributions to Indiana University and the Bloomington community and be a fitting tribute to his enduring legacy as an exceptional athlete, trailblazer for racial equality, educator, community activist and friend and mentor to many,” McRobbie said. “They will also reflect the very best of IU athletics and serve to remind all those student-athletes and fans who visit them of what it takes, including enormous courage, determination and integrity, to be a true champion.”

A 1981 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, Taliaferro was a three-time All-American at IU and the leading rusher on IU’s 1945 Big Ten Championship team that went 9-0-1 — the only undefeated team in school history. During his four years in Bloomington he led IU in rushing twice and passing once, and after the conclusion of the 1948 season, he became the first African-American drafted by an NFL team when the Chicago Bears selected him in the 13th round of the 1949 NFL Draft.

Taliaferro went on to spend six years in the NFL, earning Pro Bowl honors three times. He totaled 2,266 rushing yards, 1,300 receiving yards, 1,633 passing yards and accounted for 37 touchdowns while playing for franchises in New York, Dallas, Baltimore and Philadelphia. In addition to becoming the first African-American drafted by an NFL team, he also became the only player in league history to play seven positions – running back, quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback, punter, punt returner and kickoff returner.

Most importantly, Taliaferro made a lasting social impact on Bloomington and the IU campus. As a student, he led a charge to desegregate the community when he and former IU President Herman B Wells ate lunch together at The Gables restaurant. Taliaferro returned to IU in 1972 to serve as a special assistant to IU President John Ryan, working as a mentor and counselor to minority students, while also serving as an ambassador to the IU community as a whole.

“George Taliaferro is one of the most decorated and important figures in the history of Indiana University Athletics, and we are tremendously grateful to President McRobbie for his support and involvement in permanently recognizing George by naming Memorial Stadium’s North End Zone plaza in his honor,” IU athletic director Fred Glass said in a statement. “George was a trailblazer for African-Americans at Indiana University, in professional football and beyond, and very deserving of this honor. The George Taliaferro Plaza will serve as a permanent reminder to our players, coaches, staff and fans of the impact he made on Indiana University, the sport of football, and the individuals that he crossed paths with on a daily basis.”

3 comments

  1. I am glad IU is doing this and think it is a well deserved tribute to George. Many don’t know all the good things he did for this country and IU. He was a very good man that didn’t want to have the spotlight on him yet still did the things that were needed during turbulent times.

  2. Very deserving in deed. My only question is why not honor him in this way before he passed away? In not erecting a statue of him while he was alive and well enough to fully appreciate the gesture, IU lost an opportunity. But as they say, “better late than never.”

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