Charles W. Follis, the first black person to sign a pro football contract.

Charles W. Follis

Charles W. Follis, the first black person to sign a pro football contract.

With the Super Bowl being played on Sunday, we thought you’d like to know about the first African American to be signed to a pro football contract. His name is Charles W. Follis, and he was born in Feb. of 1879 in Cloverdale, Virginia. After helping organize his high school’s first football team, which he captained and led to an undefeated season, Follis was accepted to The College of Wooster (Ohio). And while he didn’t play college football, he got plenty of playing time for the town of Wooster’s amateur football team, where he picked up the nickname, “The Black Cyclone”. In 1904, Follis signed a contract with the Shelby Athletic Club, later the Shelby Blues. With that contract, he became the first professional African American football player. One of Follis’ teammates was Branch Rickey — the same Branch Rickey who would go on to own the Brooklyn Dodgers and sign Jackie Robinson to a pro baseball contract in 1947.

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