Charles Follis

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Charles Follis was the first black professional football player. He led a difficult life, at least professionally, due to the segregation of pro sports at the time. He signed a contract to play football for money on September 16th 1904. It was a day that is far under-rated in the sports world today. In fact, I had never heard of Charles Follis before this project. It seems twisted that a pioneer such as Follis, especially in a sport like football, is so overlooked.

Born on February 3, 1879, in Cloverdale, Virginia, he quickly learned to be a leader. Organizing the first Wooster High School Football Team, (now living in Wooster Ohio) Follis led his team to 8 straight victories in a combined score of 112-0. Every one of his teammates was white. When he signed to a pro team, The Shelby Blues, opposing players often tried purposefully to injure him. Even in the face of such blatantly aggressive racism, he continued playing for a few seasons. He was forced to retire due to injury, but ended up playing professional baseball.

Charles Follis is extremely admirable, not so much for his athletic contributions to the sport of football-- in fact they are hardly mentioned anywhere--but for his social contributions. Today the majority of professional football players are African American, but would that be the case without men like Follis? He knew what he wanted to do, and he actually had the guts to be the first to do it.