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Fritz Pollard
(1894-1986)

The first African American coach in the National Football League. On February 5, 2005, Mr. Pollard was selected for induction into the Hall of Fame.

Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard was the first African American coach in the National Football League.

“Fritz” Pollard grew up in Chicago. By the time he graduated from high school, he was a talented baseball player, running back and a three-time Cook County track champion. He briefly played football for Northwestern, Harvard and Dartmouth before receiving a scholarship from the Rockefeller family to attend Brown University in 1915.

It was here where Pollard led his squad to the 1915 Rose Bowl game. He was the first African American to play in the Rose Bowl, and the second to be named an All-American in college football. After leaving Brown, Pollard briefly pursued a degree in dentistry, worked as director of an army YMCA, and coached football at Lincoln University.

Pollard signed to play for the Akron Pros in the American Professional Football Association (APFA) and led Akron to a championship in 1920. He was named head coach in 1921 and continued to play for the Pros as well. The APFA was renamed the National Football League (NFL) in 1922, making Pollard the first African American coach in NFL history.

 
 
 
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Johnnie L. Cochran
(1937-2005)

Co-authored the groundbreaking report in 2002 revealing that black NFL head coaches are held to a higher standard than their white counterparts.

Attorney Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. is recognized as an outstanding trial lawyer, civil libertarian and philanthropist throughout the world. In 1966, he founded the law firm of Cochran, Atkins and Evans, and earned a reputation as an outstanding trial lawyer. In 1981 after a stint as prosecutor, he returned to private practice under the firm name, Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., Inc. He is the only attorney, ever, in Los Angeles, to receive both the “Criminal Trial Lawyer of the Year” Award and the “Civil Trial Lawyer of the Year” Award. Over the years he continued to negotiate record settlements, including a settlement for $7.125 million dollars for Abner Louima. Mr. Cochran’s national law firm of Cochran, Cherry, Givens & Smith, P.C. is America’s largest plaintiff tort law firm. The firm now has offices in several states with dozens of lawyers devoted to civil trial litigation. Mr. Cochran, along with his new partners, have been recognized by the renowned legal publication, The National Law Journal, as an outstanding trial lawyer. Mr. Cochran attended more than thirty Super Bowls during his life and was a fan of the Rams and the Raiders. Mr. Cochran also received countless awards for his service to the community and his unparalleled skill as a trial lawyer.

Cochran partnered with Cyrus Mehri as co-author of the 2002 report titled Black Coaches in the National Football League: Superior Performance, Inferior Opportunities.

 
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paul "tank" younger
(1928-2001)

THE FIRST PLAYER IN THE NFL FROM A HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGE AND THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN TO BECOME A FRONT OFFICE EXECUTIVE IN THE NFL.

Paul “Tank” Younger was the first player in the NFL from a Historically Black College, a graduate of Grambling State University, and the first African American to become a front office executive in the NFL.

Paul Younger started at Grambling at tackle, but it didn’t take young coach Eddie Robinson long to see that Younger’s size and quickness were better suited for the backfield. There, he earned the nickname “Tank” by running over everything that got in front of him. “Tank” was Grambling’s leader on offense and defense. A record-setting career in the backfield and at linebacker earned him a spot on the 1948 Pittsburgh Courier All-America team.

As a freshman, Younger led the nation in scoring with 25 touchdowns, scoring many times on an end-around play. In his junior year, he rushed for 1,207 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. Younger also completed 43 of 73 pass attempts, 11 for touchdowns. His career totals show 60 touchdowns, which, at the time, was a collegiate record. After his senior season, he was named Black College Football’s Player of the Year. After college, he was not drafted to play professionally. He became a free agent, signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 1949, and opened the door to a new talent source, becoming the first player in the NFL from a Historically Black College.

 
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Jaki lee
(1953-2010) 

Jaki Lee worked with some of the top law firms  in the country, but none compared to her work as one of the founding member of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation.

Jacqueline “Jaki” Vilinia Fiddermon-Lee was born in January of 1953, the second of nine children to the late Roger Lee Fiddermon and Florence Rebecca Allen Fiddermon of Snow Hill, Maryland.

Jaki and her family lived in Atlantic and Elmira, New York back returned to Stockton, Maryland. It was there that she completed her primary education. An avid reader and naturally inquisitive, Jaki was an excellent student and won many academic awards including scholarships to college.  With her cheerful disposition and friendly manner, Jaki was easily able to make friends and was well thought of by her classmates.

Jaki began her adulthood by enlisting in the United States Marine Corps and after completing her basic training at Parris Island, she was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, as the Vietnam War was ending. Jaki later became a legal secretary and excelled in her position. She  worked with some of the top law firms in the country, but none compared to her work as one of the founding members of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation. Working closely with the NFL allowed Jaki to shine in a new light that suited her well. Her excitement and enthusiasm were present in every aspect of her work, from creating the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., Salute to Excellence Awards to planning and attending the organization’s events.

 
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Daniel M. Rooney
(1932-2017)

The oldest of Art Rooney Sr.’s five sons, Dan was born in Pittsburgh on July 20, 1932, in Mercy Hospital, which always was a point of pride for him for three reasons: because that made him “the first Rooney to be born in a hospital,” because the Sisters of Mercy came from Ireland during the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s to care for the people of Pittsburgh, and because Mercy Hospital was the first hospital built west of the Allegheny Mountains. He would go on to graduate from North Catholic High School in 1950 and then from Duquesne University in 1955, both of which were located within the City of Pittsburgh limits.

Before Dan was of legal age in Pennsylvania, he had thrown himself into the business of professional football. He negotiated contracts while still a student at Duquesne, and when he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in accounting, he began his official duties with the team.