|Born:||June 11, 1930|
Fort Wayne, Indiana, United States
|Died:||December 14, 1983 53) (aged|
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
|Height||6 ft 1 in (185 cm)|
|Weight||217 lb (98 kg)|
|NFL draft||1952 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5|
|Drafted by||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Awards|| 1957 Eddie James Memorial Trophy |
1958 Eddie James Memorial Trophy
1959 CFL's Most Outstanding Player
1959 Eddie James Memorial Trophy
|Honors||1983 – Edmonton Eskimos Wall of Honour|
|Retired #s||43 Drake University|
|Records||Eskimos Records |
|Rushing||10,909 yards (Avg: 5.5; TDs: 67)|
|Kickoff Returns||29 (Avg: 14.6 yards; TDs: 0)|
|Punt Returns||7 (Avg: 9.6 yards; TDs: 0)|
John Dee Bright (June 11, 1930 – December 14, 1983) was an American professional football player in the Canadian Football League. He played college football at Drake University. He is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame, the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame, the Edmonton Eskimos Wall of Honour, the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, and the Des Moines Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.
In 1951, Bright was named a First Team College Football All-American, and was awarded the Nils V. "Swede" Nelson Sportsmanship Award. In 1969, Bright was named Drake University's greatest football player of all time. Bright is the only Drake football player to have his jersey number (No. 43) retired by the school, and in June 2006, received honorable mention from ESPN.com senior writer Ivan Maisel, as one of the best college football players to ever wear No. 43. In February 2006, the football field at Drake Stadium, in Des Moines, Iowa, was named in his honor. In November 2006, Bright was voted one of the CFL's Top 50 players (No. 19) of the league's modern era by Canadian sports network TSN.
On October 20, 1951, Bright was the victim of an intentional, racially motivated, on-field assault by an opposing college football player from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) that was captured in a widely disseminated and Pulitzer Prize-winning photo sequence, and eventually came to be known as the "Johnny Bright incident."
Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on June 11, 1930, Bright was the second oldest of five brothers. Bright lived with his mother and step father Daniel Bates, brothers, Homer Bright, the eldest, Alfred, Milton, and Nate Bates, in a working class, predominantly African-American neighborhood in Fort Wayne. 13–14, 52:
Bright was a three-sport (football, basketball, track and field) star at Fort Wayne's Central High School. Bright, who also was an accomplished softball pitcher and boxer, led Central High's football team to a City title in 1945, and helped the basketball team to two state tournament Final Four appearances.
Following his graduation from Central High in 1947, Bright initially accepted a football scholarship at Michigan State University, but, apparently unhappy with the direction of the Spartans football program, transferred to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he accepted a track and field scholarship, that allowed him to try out for the football and basketball squads. 52 Bright eventually lettered in football, track, and basketball, during his collegiate career at Drake.:
Following a mandatory freshman redshirt year, Bright began his collegiate football career in 1949, rushing for 975 yards and throwing for another 975, to lead the nation in total offense during his sophomore year, as the Drake Bulldogs finished their season at 6–2–1.In Bright's junior year, the halfback/quarterback rushed for 1,232 yards and passed for 1,168 yards, setting an NCAA record for total offense (2,400 yards) in 1950, and again led the Bulldogs to a 6–2–1 record.
Bright's senior year began with great promise. Bright was considered a pre-season Heisman Trophy candidate, and was leading the nation in both rushing and total offense with 821 and 1,349 yards respectively, when the Drake Bulldogs, winners of their previous five games, faced Missouri Valley Conference foe Oklahoma A&M, at Lewis Field (now Boone Pickens Stadium) in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on October 20, 1951.
Bright's participation as a halfback/quarterback in Drake's game against Oklahoma A&M on October 20, 1951, was controversial, as it marked the first time that such a prominent African-American athlete, with national fame (Bright was a pre-season Heisman Trophy candidate, and led the nation in total offense going into the game) and of critical importance to the success of his team (Drake was undefeated and carried a five-game winning streak into the contest, due in large part to his rushing and passing), which played against Oklahoma A&M in a home game at Lewis Field, in Stillwater.
During the first seven minutes of the game, Bright had been knocked unconscious three times by blows from Oklahoma A&M defensive tackle Wilbanks Smith. While the final, elbow blow from Smith broke Bright's jaw, Bright was able to complete a 61-yard touchdown pass to halfback Jim Pilkington, a few plays later before the injury finally forced Bright to leave the game. Bright finished the game with 75 yards (14 yards rushing and 61 yards passing), the first time he had finished a game, with less than 100 yards in his three-year collegiate career at Drake. Oklahoma A&M eventually won the game 27–14.
A photographic sequence by Des Moines Register cameramen Don Ultang and John Robinson clearly showed that Smith's jaw breaking blow to Bright had occurred well after Bright had handed off the ball to fullback Gene Macomber, and that the blow was delivered well behind the play.Years later, Ultang said that he and Robinson were lucky to capture the incident when they did; they'd only planned to stay through the first quarter so they could get the film developed in time for the next day's edition.
It had been an open secret before the game that A&M was planning to target Bright. Even though A&M had integrated two years earlier, the Jim Crow spirit was still very much alive in Stillwater. Both Oklahoma A&M's student newspaper, The Daily O'Collegian , and the local newspaper, The News Press , reported that Bright was a marked man, and several A&M students were openly claiming that Bright "would not be around at the end of the game." Ultang and Robinson had actually set up their camera after rumors of Bright being targeted became too loud to ignore.
When it became apparent that neither Oklahoma A&M nor the MVC would take any disciplinary action against Smith, Drake withdrew from the MVC in protest and stayed out until 1956 (though it didn't return for football until 1971). Fellow member Bradley University pulled out of the league as well in solidarity with Drake; while it returned for non-football sports in 1955, Bradley never played another down of football in the MVC (it dropped football in 1970).
The "Johnny Bright Incident", as it became widely known, eventually provoked changes in NCAA football rules regarding illegal blocking, and mandated the use of more protective helmets with face guards.
Recalling the incident without apparent bitterness in a 1980 Des Moines Register interview three years before his death, Bright commented: "There's no way it couldn't have been racially motivated... . ..What I like about the whole deal now, and what I'm smug enough to say, is that getting a broken jaw has somehow made college athletics better. It made the NCAA take a hard look and clean up some things that were bad."
Bright's jaw injury limited his effectiveness for the remainder of his senior season at Drake, but he finished his college career with 5,983 yards in total offense, averaging better than 236 yards per game in total offense, and scored 384 points in 25 games.As a senior, Bright earned 70 percent of the yards Drake gained and scored 70 percent of the Bulldogs' points, despite missing the better part of the final three games of the season.
Following his final football season at Drake (1951), Bright was named a First Team College Football All-American and finished fifth in the balloting for the 1951 Heisman Trophy. Bright was also awarded the Nils V. "Swede" Nelson Sportsmanship Award, and played in both the post-season East–West Shrine Game and the Hula Bowl.
In 1969, Bright was named Drake University's greatest football player of all time. He is also the only Drake football player to have his jersey number (No. 43) retired by the school. In June 2006, Bright received honorable mention from ESPN.com senior writer Ivan Maisel as one of the best college football players to ever wear No. 43.
Bright was the first pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the 1952 National Football League draft. Bright spurned the NFL, electing to play for the Calgary Stampeders of the Western Interprovincial Football Union, the precursor to the West Division of the Canadian Football League. Bright later commented:
I would have been their (the Eagles') first Negro player. There was a tremendous influx of Southern players into the NFL at that time, and I didn't know what kind of treatment I could expect.
Bright joined the Calgary Stampeders as a fullback/linebacker in 1952, leading the Stampeders and the WIFU in rushing with 815 yards his rookie season.Bright played fullback/linebacker with the Stampeders for the 1952, 1953, and part of the 1954 seasons. In 1954, the Calgary Stampeders traded him to the Edmonton Eskimos in mid-season. He would enjoy the most success of his professional football career as a member of the Eskimos.
Though Bright played strictly defense as a linebacker in his first year with the Eskimos, he played both offense (as a fullback) and defense for two seasons (1955–1956), and played offense permanently after that (1957–1964). He, along with teammates Rollie Miles, Normie Kwong, and Jackie Parker, helped lead the Eskimos to successive Grey Cup titles in 1954, 1955, and 1956 (where Bright rushed for a then Grey Cup record of 169 yards in a 50–27 win over the Montreal Alouettes).In 1957, he rushed for eight consecutive 100-yard games, finishing the season with 1,679 yards. In 1958, he rushed for 1,722 yards. In 1959, following his third straight season as the Canadian pro rushing leader with 1,340 yards, Bright won the CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award, the first black athlete to be so honored.
Bright was approached several times during his Canadian career, by NFL teams about playing in the United States, but in the days before the large salaries of today's NFL players, it was common for CFL players such as him to have jobs in addition to football, and he had already started a teaching career in 1957, the year he moved his family to Edmonton.
I'd established a home and Canada had been good to me. I might have been interested, if the offers could have matched what I was making from both football and teaching.
Bright retired in 1964 as the CFL's all-time leading rusher (Mike Pringle and George Reed have since surpassed him). Bright rushed for 10,909 yards in 13 seasons, had five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and led the CFL in rushing four times. While Bright is currently 15th on the all-pro rushing list, his career average of 5.5 yards per carry is the highest among more-than-10,000-yard rushers (Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown is second at 5.2 yards per carry). 24 jersey was added to the Edmonton Eskimos' Wall of Honour at the Eskimos' Commonwealth Stadium in 1983. Bright was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame on November 26, 1970. In November 2006, Bright was voted one of the CFL's Top 50 players (No. 19) of the league's modern era by Canadian sports network TSN.At the time of his retirement, Bright had a then-CFL record thirty-six 100-plus-yard games, carrying the ball 200 or more times for five straight seasons. Bright led the CFL Western Conference in rushing four times, winning the Eddie James Memorial Trophy in the process, and was a CFL Western Conference All-Star five straight seasons from 1957 to 1961. Bright played in 197 consecutive CFL games as a fullback/linebacker. Bright's No.
Bright earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education at Drake University in 1952,becoming a teacher, coach, and school administrator, both during and after his professional football career, eventually rising to principal of D.S. Mackenzie Junior High School and Hillcrest Junior High School in Edmonton, Alberta. He was head coach at Edmonton's Bonnie Doon High School in the 1960s when the Lancers were a champion football team. He was also the head coach of the Edmonton Wildcats in the Canadian Junior Football League from 1978 to 1981.
He became a Canadian citizen in 1962.
Bright died of a massive heart attack on December 14, 1983, at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, while undergoing elective surgery to correct a knee injury suffered during his football career.He was survived by his wife and four children.
Bright is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, in Edmonton.
Despite irrefutable evidence of the incident, Oklahoma A&M officials denied anything had happened. Indeed, Oklahoma A&M/State refused to make any further official comment on the incident for over half a century. This was the case even when Drake's former dean of men, Robert B. Kamm, became president of OSU in 1966; years later, he said that the determination to gloss over the affair was so strong that he knew he could not even discuss it. Finally, on September 28, 2005, Oklahoma State President David J. Schmidly wrote a letter to Drake President David Maxwell at Maxwell's request formally apologizing for the incident, calling it "an ugly mark on Oklahoma State University and college football." The apology came twenty-two years after Bright's death.
In February 2006, the football field at Drake Stadium, in Des Moines, Iowa, was named in Bright's honor.
In September 2010, Johnny Bright School, a kindergarten through grade 9 school, was named in Bright's honour, and opened in the Rutherford neighbourhood of Edmonton.The school was officially opened on September 15 by representatives of the school district and Alberta Education Minister Dave Hancock, and included tributes from Bright's family, several dignitaries, and former colleagues of Bright from his both his athletic and educational careers.
On September 1st, 2020, Drake University announced the opening of a two year college at the university named the John Dee Bright College.
Billy Dale Vessels was a gridiron football player. He played college football at the University of Oklahoma and won the Heisman Trophy in 1952. Vessels went on to play professional football with the National Football League's Baltimore Colts and the Western Interprovincial Football Union's Edmonton Eskimos.
Michael A. Pringle is an American former professional gridiron football player. A running back, he had a successful career in the Canadian Football League (CFL), during which he set or tied almost every significant league records for the position. He played college football for the California State University, Fullerton Titans and was twice signed by National Football League (NFL) teams, though he never played a game in the NFL.
Antonio Warren is a former Canadian Football League running back who played with the BC Lions and the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos.
Troy Davis is a former American college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League (NFL) and Canadian Football League (CFL). He played college football for Iowa State University where he was a Heisman finalist. Davis twice earned All-American honors and was the first and one of only two NCAA Division I-A running backs to rush for over 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. In 2016, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He played professionally for the New Orleans Saints of the NFL, and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Edmonton Eskimos and Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, and was a member of the Eskimos' Grey Cup championship team in 2005.
Tom Wilkinson is an American former professional football quarterback best known for his time with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, where he played on six Grey Cup-winning teams. He was a Western Conference and CFL all-star quarterback in 1974, 1978 and 1979 and won the CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award in 1974. Wilkinson has been inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
John Dickerson "Jackie" Parker was an American gridiron football player and coach. He was an All-American in college football and an outstanding professional football player in the Canadian Football League at the running back, quarterback, defensive back, and kicker positions. He is primarily known for his play with the Edmonton Eskimos. Later in his career, he played for the Toronto Argonauts and the BC Lions, and coached the Eskimos and Lions after his playing career ended.
The Johnny Bright incident was a violent on-field assault against African-American player Johnny Bright by a white opposing player during an American college football game held on October 20, 1951, in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The game was significant in itself as it marked the first time that an African-American athlete with a national profile and of critical importance to the success of his team, the Drake Bulldogs, had played against Oklahoma A&M College at Oklahoma A&M's Lewis Field. Bright's injury also highlighted the racial tensions of the times and assumed notoriety when it was captured in what was later to become both a widely disseminated and eventually Pulitzer Prize-winning photo sequence.
John Coleman Hufnagel is the president and general manager of the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. He was previously the Stampeders' head coach and played quarterback for fifteen professional seasons in the CFL and National Football League. Prior to his hiring to the Stampeders on December 3, 2007, he was the offensive coordinator of the New York Giants of the NFL.
Tracy Ham is a former Canadian Football League quarterback for the Edmonton Eskimos, Toronto Argonauts, Baltimore Stallions, and the Montreal Alouettes. He was known for his abilities as a dual-threat quarterback. In his college football career with Georgia Southern he became the first quarterback to rush for 3,000 yards and pass for 5,000 yards in a career. Ham is an inductee of both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Elmer Roland "Rollie" Miles was a professional football player for the Canadian Football League Edmonton Eskimos. Miles played offence, defence, and special teams, during his eleven-year career with the Eskimos. Miles is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, and the Edmonton Eskimos Wall of Honour. In November 2006, Miles was voted one of the CFL's Top 50 players (#48) of the league's modern era by Canadian sports network TSN.
Brian Fryer is a retired football player who starred at wide receiver for the University of Alberta, and played professionally for the Washington Redskins of the National Football League and the Edmonton Eskimos and Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League.
Adarius Bowman is a former American professional football player. He spent the majority of his career with the Edmonton Eskimos as a Wide Receiver. He was signed by the Saskatchewan Roughriders as an undrafted free agent in 2008. He played college football at Oklahoma State.
Jim "Long Gone" Thomas was an American gridiron football player and coach. He played professionally as a running back for nine seasons in the Canadian Football League CFL) with the Edmonton Eskimos. Thomas ran for 6,161 yards in his CFL career and was a two-time CFL All-Star. He signed to the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL) in 1970 for a five-game trial, but returned to Edmonton.
The Drake Bulldogs are an NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision non-scholarship college football program representing Drake University. They currently compete in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League and have been charter members of the conference since 1991. Drake began playing intercollegiate football in 1893.
Calvin Harrell was a college American football and professional Canadian football running back, ranking among the top players in Arkansas State history. During Harrell's college career with the Indians, the team under head coach Bennie Ellender played in three Pecan Bowls, one of the regional bowls that comprised the post season for the College Division of the NCAA, and won the national small college championship with an undefeated season in 1970.
Calvin McCarty is a Canadian football running back who most recently played for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League (CFL). He played as a tailback until 2014, when he became the starting fullback for the Eskimos. McCarty is known for being able to fill many roles at his position, with TSN sportscaster Chris Schultz noting in 2010 that he is a "multi-purpose running back who catches the ball extremely well, blocks well and runs well". He is a champion of the 103rd Grey Cup.
Lindy Berry was an American gridiron football quarterback. He played college football for the TCU Horned Frogs at Texas Christian University. Berry was selected in the 1950 NFL Draft, and played professional football for two seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos in what later became the Canadian Football League (CFL). In 1950, he received the Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy for the CFL West Division's most valuable player.
John White IV is an American football running back for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL). He played college football at Los Angeles Harbor College and the University of Utah. He attended South High School in Torrance, California.
Shakir Bell is an American football running back who is currently a free agent. He recently played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League. He attended Indiana State University. He graduated from Warren Central High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. He made his professional debut in 2015 for the Edmonton Eskimos.
The 1951 Drake Bulldogs football team was an American football team that represented Drake University as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference during the 1951 college football season. In its third season under head coach Warren Gaer, the team compiled a 7–2 record, tied for fourth place in the conference, and outscored opponents by a total of 247 to 117. The team played its home games at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.