Former Lions running back Wally Triplett passed away yesterday. He was one of the first African-American players ever selected in the NFL Draft (1949), and he was the first African-American player to start for Penn State. Here’s a brief summary of what he accomplished for the game of football.
Triplett was taken by the Lions with the 19th overall pick. He only appeared in 24 games as a pro, but he took advantage of his time in the NFL as a return specialist with three touchdowns -- two as a returner.
He set an NFL record that still stands today. In 1950, Triplett returned four kicks for 294 yards and a touchdown in one game (an average of 73.5 yards per return).
“(Wally) resides among the great men who helped reshape the game as they faced the challenges of segregation and discrimination… one of the true trailblazers in American sports history.” – Detroit Lions
His four NFL seasons bookended two years of service in the Korean War. Triplett was 92 years old.