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IU football great George Taliaferro dies

By the Indiana Football Hall of Fame and C-T Staff Report

The Indiana Football Hall of Fame lost an important member with the passing of George Taliaferro on Oct. 8. The Hall’s Board of Directors extends its condolences to his wife, family and friends.

Taliaferro was not only a member of the Hall, but a tireless champion to people of all kinds throughout his 91-year life.

He was a great football player, but also an advocate for equal treatment of all people, no matter their age, ethnicity, gender or race.

Taliaferro was a graduate of Gary Roosevelt High School before attending Indiana University, where he was an all-American. He played for IU for two years before Jackie Robinson donned a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, becoming the “Jackie Robinson of Football.”

He was the leading rusher, passer and punter for the 1945 IU team, the only undefeated team in school football history, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

That 1945 IU football went 9-0-1, but never made a post-season bowl appearance. He spent a year in the service in 1946 before returning to IU and finishing out his career to get his degree.

At one time, Taliaferro debated whether or not he had made a mistake in coming to Bloomington to play football for IU because of the discrimination against black people at the time, but deemed the value of getting an education at IU was worth far more than any disadvantages that discrimination brought to him.

Taliaferro holds the distinction of being the first African-American player drafted by a National Football League team (by the Chicago Bears), and was named to the Pro Bowl three times.

Facing discrimination and racism, on and off the field, Mr. Taliaferro fought against those attitudes and behaviors throughout his entire life, and will always be a beacon for equality in the sports world and beyond.

Taliaferro, with help from then IU president Herman Wells, helped desegregate restaurants and a movie theater in Bloomington.

Mr. Taliaferro made enormous contributions to the game of football. But his efforts in the classroom and in the guidance of others will leave a larger legacy of greatness.

Taliaferro served in a number of different positions in higher education, and was a role model and mentor for many athletes.

He will be missed.