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Jason Philip Miller

professional football player, was born Lemuel Jackson Barney in Gulfport, Mississippi. Information about his upbringing and personal life is difficult to come by. He played football as a young man, attending local schools in Gulfport and playing a multitude of positions—including punter and defensive back—on his high school team. In 1963 he matriculated at the historically black Jackson State, where he made the team and was again a standout. He played three seasons and had twenty-seven interceptions. He also served as the team's punter.

In 1967 Barney graduated with a bachelor s degree in Health and Science and only then entered the National Football League NFL draft He was taken in the second round by the Detroit Lions and it was with the Lions that Barney would spend his entire career His life in the Lions silver and blue got off to an auspicious start Barney playing defensive ...

Article

John Hanners

football player, social activist, author, singer-actor, and ordained minister, was born Roosevelt Grier on a farm in Cuthbert, Georgia, the seventh of Joseph and Ruth Grier's eleven children. At age thirteen he moved with his family to Roselle, New Jersey. Offered an athletic scholarship to Penn State University, he enrolled in 1950 and studied psychology, music, and education. His college athletic career was exceptional. Not only did he receive first-team All-American football honors in 1955, but he also set an Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletics of America shot-put record (fifty-eight feet) in track and field.

In 1965 Grier signed with the National Football League's New York Giants for a $500 bonus and a yearly salary of $6,500. During a long career that lasted from 1955 through 1968 Grier was a dominant defensive tackle in an era known for excellent defensive players His size ...

Article

Wayne L. Wilson

football player, was born David Jones in Eatonville, Florida, five miles from Orlando. David's parents, Mattie and Ishmeal, who worked a variety of jobs including farm workers, had eight children, three boys and five girls. He was the seventh. The poverty-stricken family lived in an old, wooden house with no indoor plumbing until David attended high school. He was a three-sport star (baseball, basketball, and football) at all-black Hungerford High School.

However, all David dreamed about as a child was becoming a star professional football player. His father demanded that all three boys play the sport. But he noticed that David had the greatest potential for success in the pros. Jones said of his father in Pro Football Weekly, “He used to watch me practice at 5:00 in the morning doing my running when nobody else did. He supported the hell out of me” (Arkush, 27 Jan ...

Article

Mr. T  

Jason Philip Miller

actor, performer, and minister, was born Laurence Tureaud in the rough and tumble Robert Taylor housing projects in Chicago, Illinois. He was the youngest of twelve children. His father, Nathaniel, a minister, abandoned the family when Laurence was five years old, leaving the young boy's mother to raise her large family on a meager welfare check. Tureaud attended Dunbar Vocational School and won a football scholarship to Prairie View A&M in Texas. He matriculated in 1971 but was expelled after just a year (presumably for academic indifference, though the official reasons are unclear).

His academic career apparently at an end, Tureaud enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served as a military policeman, but that too turned out to be a brief association. In 1971 he married Phyllis Clark The couple would have three children but later divorced Two years later he tried out for ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

football player, sportscaster, and actor, was born Orenthal James Simpson in San Francisco, California, to Jimmie Simpson, a cook, and Eunice Durden, a nurse's aide. The child disliked his unusual first name, which was-given to him by an aunt who had heard of a French actor named Orenthal. Sometime during his childhood—accounts differ as to when—he began using his initials “O. J.,” which friends later adapted to “Orange Juice” and, later, to “Juice.” When O. J. was four, Jimmie Simpson abandoned his wife and family, leaving Eunice to raise four children in a two-bedroom apartment in the run-down Potrero Hill public housing projects near San Francisco's Chinatown. Eunice Simpson worked long hours to provide for her children but it was often a hard struggle When O J contracted rickets as an infant for example he was left bowlegged and in need of leg braces that his ...

Article

football player, was born in Beaumont, Texas, the second of three sons of Willie Ray Smith Sr., a high school football coach, and Georgia Smith, a teacher and head of the city schools’ economics department. A powerful defensive force in both college and professional football, Smith found a second career as an outsized actor in film and television.

Growing up in an all‐black neighborhood in Beaumont, Smith and his brothers, Willie Ray Jr. and Lawrence Edward Tody learned football under their father while at Charlton Pollard one of three high schools where the elder Smith coached and accumulated some of his 235 victories As a standout defensive end Bubba received many scouts attention Smith wanted to attend the nearby University of Texas but while the Longhorns head coach Darrell Royal offered him a scholarship he was unable to promise that Smith would play for the still segregated program In ...

Article

James I. Deutsch

film actor and athlete, was born Woodrow Wilson Woolwine Strode in Los Angeles, the son of Baylous Strode, a brick mason whose mother was a Blackfoot Indian, and Rosa Norris Strode, whose ancestors included Cherokees. Because of his imposing size—6 feet 4 inches and 215 pounds at his peak—and his physical strength and coordination, Strode first achieved renown as an athlete. At Thomas Jefferson High School in Los Angeles, he earned honors in both football and track and field (shot put, high jump, high and low hurdles), which resulted in an athletic scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles. However Strode's scholastic credentials were insufficient, so he first had to prove himself academically. Over the next two years he took special classes, while also training for the Decathlon event at the 1936 Olympic Games though he was not selected for the team He finally ...

Article

Lane Demas

football player and actor. At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), from 1937 to 1939 Washington was the most celebrated college football player on the West Coast. He was also one of two African Americans to integrate the National Football League (NFL) in 1946.

Kenneth S. Washington was born in Los Angeles and played football at Abraham Lincoln High School. From 1937 to 1939 he played tailback at UCLA and rushed for 1,914 yards. In 1939 he led the team to its best season ever and a top-ten national ranking. At a time when prominent teams even outside the South were still unwilling to accept any black athletes, Washington played with four other African American students, including Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson and Woody Strode.

Washington and his black teammates achieved immense popularity on the West Coast and earned national recognition Los Angeles citizens overwhelmingly supported the ...

Article

Greg Freeman

professional athlete, blues producer, and record company executive, was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the son of Daniel and Millie McFall Williams. When Williams was seven his father was murdered while waiting to catch a train. Subsequently Williams's mother relocated the family to her hometown of Monmouth, Illinois. In high school Williams demonstrated great athletic ability, winning the 50-yard dash in the Illinois High School State Championship in 1912. He was found to be even more capable on the football field, earning a scholarship to Brown University where he played football in 1916, 1917, 1919, and 1920. Williams served in the army in 1918 as World War I drew to a close, and did not receive his degree until 1921.

After he graduated from college Williams played professional football until 1926 joining the rosters of such teams as the ...

Article

Michael Adams

football player, sportscaster, actor, director, screenwriter, and producer, was born in Gary, Indiana, where his father was a steelworker and his mother a homemaker. Williamson earned a track scholarship to Northwestern University, where he studied architecture, but football coach Ara Parseghian recruited him for an additional spot. After college Williamson played for the San Francisco 49ers in 1960 before jumping to the National Football League's new rival, the American Football League. In four seasons with the Oakland Raiders and three with the Kansas City Chiefs, he was an outstanding defensive back, earning the nickname “The Hammer” for his practice of hitting opposing players in the head with his forearm while tackling them.

Williamson's “unsportsmanlike” play earned him great notoriety. Before the first Super Bowl, played in January 1967, he boasted that he would knock Green Bay Packer receivers Boyd Dowler and Carroll Dale ...