Fritz Pollard Revisited

By Zachary Block '99 / January / February 2002
July 1st, 2007
Fritz Pollard '19 was the first black All-American in collegiate football history and the first black coach in the NFL. Newspaper headlines of the day celebrated Pollard and Jim Thorpe as the greatest backs of the era. Yet today Thorpe is a national icon and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while Pollard is largely unknown. A new hour-long documentary, scheduled to air on ESPN in February as part of Black History Month, tells Pollard's story and explores the reasons he remains in history's shadows. Research into Pollard's life took producer John Moffet on a three-month journey from Pollard's childhood home in Rogers Park, Illinois, where his older brothers taught him to play football, to an eighteenth-century farmhouse in Massachusetts, where Moffet discovered more than forty reels of film from an unfinished documentary on Pollard. Much of the new documentary - which features footage of Pollard in the 1916 Rose Bowl Game and interviews with him from the 1970s and 1980s - is also based on Fritz Pollard: Pioneer in Racial Advancement, the 1992 biography by historian John M. Carroll '65. "Outside of Brown, [Pollard] is largely unknown," Moffet says, "and that's part of the beauty and the tragedy of the story." - Zachary Block '99
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January / February 2002