He would pull up to the curb in front of the New York Amsterdam News every afternoon at a little before 5 p.m. He drove an elegant-looking black automobile, and you could literally grab a razor blade and shave in front of it if you got close enough. That driving machine was sparkling. I would walk over to his side of the car, and we would chat as he waited for his wife to exit the office, where she worked on the lobby level. It made my day. Fritz Pollard was a living legend.
Pollard was a great athlete as a teenager and matriculated at Brown University, as well as Bates College. He then became a living legend, professional football’s first Black quarterback/running back. He was the first Black head coach with the Hammond Pros. As the years rolled on, Art Shell, Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith, Denny Green, Mike Tomlin Leslie Frazier, Herm Edwards and Marvin Lewis have stood on his shoulders. There has been and still are a ton of African-American assistant coaches. Few have elevated to the top job. But the African-American would-be head coaches are moving at a snail’s pace. Not so with the African-American players. The NFL is dominated by the dipped-in-Black players at almost every position, with the exception of the quarterback position. But that is rapidly changing. Virtually every skilled position in the NFL is dominated by an African-American athlete. What we’re seeing today is the ever-increasing number of African-American youngsters on the high school and collegiate level electing to play the quarterback position. And that has resulted in more kids of color winning the quarterback position battles on the collegiate level. The likes of Cam Newton, Michael Vick, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin, Josh Freeman and the Jets’ Geno Smith have been given the opportunity to battle for the starters’ jobs and win some of the battles. Yes! It’s a new day and a new game as the complexion of the NFL continues to change.