George Taliaferro dies; was first African-American picked in NFL draft

George Taliaferro, who in 1949 became the first African-American player to be drafted by an NFL team, died Monday night at age 91.

His death was announced by the George Taliaferro Sport Association.

Taliaferro, who was a three-time All-American at Indiana, was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 13th round of the 1949 draft, but he never played for the team.

He had already committed to play for the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference and played for the team during the 1949 season. Taliaferro was a Bears fan but had signed with the Dons a week before the NFL draft.

"I knew everybody who ever played with the Bears," Taliaferro told The Undefeated last year. "That was my team."

Taliaferro entered the NFL in 1950 after the AAFC folded and played six seasons, with the New York Yanks (1950-51), Dallas Texans ('52), Baltimore Colts ('53-54) and Philadelphia Eagles ('55). He was selected to the Pro Bowl in three consecutive seasons, from 1951 to 1953.

Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted that Taliaferro was "a trailblazer and a true gentleman."

In the NFL, Taliaferro played seven positions -- quarterback, running back, wide receiver, punter, kick returner, punt returner and defensive back.

"I'm the one person in the history of the NFL to play seven positions," Taliaferro told The Undefeated. "When I went on the field, the game was over when I came off."

He finished his professional football career with 2,266 rushing yards on 498 carries, 15 rushing touchdowns, 95 receptions for 1,300 yards and 12 touchdown catches, as well as 1,633 passing yards with 10 touchdowns and 29 interceptions.

Taliaferro starred for the 1945 Hoosiers team that went 9-0-1, the only team in school history to finish undefeated. That season he became the first African-American player to lead the Big Ten in rushing yards.

He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981.