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Thursday, October 4, 2001
Simmons was among first black All-Americans
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Ozzie Simmons, one of the first black All-American college football players, has died. He was 87.

Simmons, who taught physical education for 38 years in Chicago's public schools, died Sept. 26 of complications from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases in a Chicago nursing home.

Simmons played halfback for the University of Iowa from 1934-36, was an All-American in 1935 and was selected to the All-Big Ten team in 1934 and '35. He was Iowa's top rusher in his last two seasons, and led the team in scoring in 1936.

"He was quite a popular player and took quite a lot of physical abuse around the Big Ten because he was black, and there were some real racial feelings in the league at that time," said George Wine, Iowa's former sports information director.

While playing at Iowa, Simmons' presence as a black player started the tradition of awarding a prize to the winner of the Iowa-Minnesota matchup. State governors first offered the prize in 1935 to smooth tensions that developed because of Simmons' presence on the team. The award started out as a living pig and is now a bronze trophy.

After finishing his career at Iowa, Simmons talked to the Chicago Bears, but the NFL was not integrated at the time.

He was inducted into the Bob Douglas Black Sports Hall of Fame in New York in 1984. He was also a charter member of the National Iowa Varsity Club Hall of Fame.

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