Fritz Pollard

Last updated

Fritz Pollard
Frederick Pollard, 1916 (cropped).jpg
No. 9, 1
Position: Back
Personal information
Born:(1894-01-27)January 27, 1894
Chicago, Illinois
Died:May 11, 1986(1986-05-11) (aged 92)
Silver Spring, Maryland
Height:5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight:166 lb (75 kg)
Career information
College: Brown (1915–1916)
Career history
As a player:
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing touchdowns:16
Receiving touchdowns:2
Total touchdowns:18
Player stats at  ·  PFR
Coaching stats at PFR

Frederick Douglass "Fritz" Pollard (January 27, 1894 – May 11, 1986) was an American football player and coach. In 1921, he became the first African-American head coach in the National Football League (NFL). Pollard and Bobby Marshall were the first two African-American players in the NFL in 1920. Football pioneer Walter Camp called Pollard "one of the greatest runners these eyes have ever seen." [1]


Early life

Pollard attended Albert G. Lane Manual Training High School in Chicago, also known as "Lane Tech," where he played football, baseball, and ran track. He then went to Brown University, majoring in chemistry. Pollard played halfback on the Brown football team, which went to the 1916 Rose Bowl. [2] He was the first African American football player at Brown. [3] He became the first African American running back to be named to Walter Camp's All-America team.

Pollard coached Lincoln University's football team in Oxford, Pennsylvania during the 1918 to 1920 seasons [4] and served as athletic director of the school's World War I era Students' Army Training Corps. During 1918–1919, he led the team to a victorious season defeating Howard University's Bisons 13–0 [5] in the annual Thanksgiving classic as well as Hampton University (7–0) on November 9, 1918, and teams of military recruits at Camp Dix (19–0) on November 2, 1918, [6] and Camp Upton (41–0). [7] By the fall of 1920, he had begun to play for Akron, missing key Lincoln losses to Hampton (0–14) and Howard (0–42), much to the consternation of the alumni and administration. [8] Paul Robeson was enlisted by Lincoln's alumni to coach the Thanksgiving 1920 game against Howard. [8]

Pollard criticized Lincoln's administration, saying they had hampered his ability to coach and had refused to provide adequate travel accommodations for the team. "Prior to the Hampton game, the team was compelled to go to Hampton by boat, sleeping on the decks and under portholes," he told a reporter. "No cabins were provided, nor were they given a place to sleep after reaching Hampton. They lost the game through lack of rest." He also blamed the school for not providing the proper equipment. "I, myself, bought and paid $200 out of my pocket for football shoes for the team." He missed the 1920 Howard game, he said, because his Lincoln salary was so low that he was compelled to augment it with pay from Akron. [9]

Pollard (left) and Paul Robeson in a photo from the March 1918 issue of The Crisis Pollard and Robeson.jpg
Pollard (left) and Paul Robeson in a photo from the March 1918 issue of The Crisis

He played professional football with the Akron Pros, the team he would lead to the APFA championship in 1920. In 1921, he became the co-head coach of the Akron Pros, while still maintaining his roster position as running back. He also played for the Milwaukee Badgers, Hammond Pros, Gilberton Cadamounts, Union Club of Phoenixville and Providence Steam Roller. Some sources indicate that Pollard also served as co-coach of the Milwaukee Badgers with Budge Garrett for part of the 1922 season. He also coached the Gilberton Cadamounts, a non-NFL team. In 1923 and 1924, he served as head coach for the Hammond Pros. [2]

Pollard, along with all nine of the African American players in the NFL at the time, were removed from the league at the end of the 1926 season, never to return again. He spent some time organizing all-African American barnstorming teams, including the Chicago Black Hawks in 1928 and the Harlem Brown Bombers in the 1930s.

Later life

In the 1930s, Pollard founded his own professional football team, the Brown Bombers. The Depression ended the Brown Bombers' run in 1938, and Pollard went on to other ventures, including a talent agency, tax consulting, and film and music production. He produced Rockin' the Blues [10] in 1956, which included such performers as Connie Carroll, The Harptones, The Five Miller Sisters, Pearl Woods, [11] Linda Hopkins, Elyce Roberts, The Hurricanes, and The Wanderers. [12] Pollard also published the New York Independent News from 1935 to 1942, purportedly the first African American-owned tabloid in New York City. [13]

Pollard's legacy lives on through his grandson Fritz D Pollard III (and children Meredith Pollard Russell and Marcus Pollard) his other grandson Dr Stephen Towns and granddaughter Stephanie Towns.

Honors and legacy

Head coaching record


Lincoln Lions (Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association)(1918–1920)
1918 Lincoln5–02–01st [n 1]
1919 Lincoln2–0–12–0–1T–1st [n 1]
1920 Lincoln3–21–25th

See also


  1. 1 2 From 1918 to 1920, the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) did not recognize a champion in football

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  1. Carroll, John M. (1998). Fritz Pollard: Pioneer in Racial Advancement. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 4. ISBN   0252067991.
  2. 1 2 Reasons and Patrick, "Pollard Set Records as Black Football Player, Coach", The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, 1972, February 27, Section E: 5.
  3. Sloan, Louise (January 2016). "A Man of Firsts". Brown Alumni Magazine. Providence, RI: Brown University. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  4. "Crack Lincoln University Team Coached by Fritz Pollard", Philadelphia Tribune, October 19, 1918
  5. "Lincoln University Victor over Howard", Washington Post November 29, 1918.
  6. "Pollard's Orange and Blue Juggernaut Crushes Camp Dix", Philadelphia Tribune, November 9, 1918.
  7. "Lincoln Swamps Camp Upton", Chicago Defender, November 30, 1918.
  8. 1 2 "Fred Pollard Finishes as Coach for Lincoln", Chicago Defender, December 4, 1920.
  9. "Fritz Pollard Answers Critics", Baltimore Afro-American, December 17, 1920.
  10. "Rockin' the Blues" via
  11. "Pearl Woods". Discogs.
  12. John M. Carroll (1998). Fritz Pollard: Pioneer in Racial Advancement. University of Illinois Press. ISBN   978-0-252-06799-0.
  13. "Fritz's Fame". Brown University. Brown Alumni News. March 2005. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  14. "03-078 (Fritz Pollard Award)".
  15. "Jim Muldoon inducted into Rose Bowl Hall of Fame". Pac-12. Pac-12 Conference. December 30, 2015. Retrieved February 3, 2016. Also inducted (was) ... Brown's Fritz Pollard (1916 Rose Bowl Game)
  16. "Mark Brunell, Fritz Pollard, Tyrone Wheatley and Jim Muldoon to be Inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame presented by Northwestern Mutual". Tournament of Roses. Pasadena, CA: Tournament of Roses. September 25, 2015. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  17. "Alpha Athletes at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany". Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Retrieved January 10, 2010.
  18. Brown University – Brown University and the Black Coaches Association establish annual Fritz Pollard Award February 18, 2004.