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First competing African–American NFL player visits UDM Detroit Sports History & Journalism class

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September 27, 2014

University of Detroit Mercy's Detroit Sports History & Journalism class, taught by Professor Tom Stanton, will welcome retired NFL player Wallace "Wally" Triplett III for a Q&A on Tuesday, Sept. 30, at 9:55 a.m. in the Jane & Walter O. Briggs Building Room 117 on UDM's McNichols Campus.

Wallace TriplettTriplett, 88, will be speaking with the class about his time in the NFL, his successful career in business after football, and what it was like to be a professional player during a time of racial segregation.

A Pennsylvania native, Triplett attended Penn State University and played as the first African-American starter in the football team’s history. He was also the first African-American to earn a varsity letter (1946) and the first African-American Penn State starter to be drafted by the NFL (1949).

After receiving his degree in physical education from Penn State, Triplett was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 19th round of the 1949 NFL draft. African-Americans were not uncommon on NFL rosters, but Triplett was the first to step into a uniform and onto the field.

He played two seasons with the Lions and set an NFL record with 294 return yards in a single game. The record stood for 44 years. He left after the 1950 season for a year of military service in the Korean War and played for the Chicago Cardinals when he returned.

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