[14] When he retired in 1948, 80,000 people attended his final game and the entire stadium gave him a standing ovation. Inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992. Some might nod when they hear the name. Electing Kenny Washington to the Hall of Fame also sends the message to students like us that being brave, overcoming obstacles and standing up for what is … Instead, his accomplishments come from those who are given an opportunity today because of what Washington did years ago. He was a star running backa Abraham Lincoln High School in Los Angeles In college at UCLA, he rushed for 1,914 yards in his college career, a school record for 34 years. Kenneth S. Washington was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the city's Lincoln Heights neighborhood. Others might refer to him as the "Jackie Robinson of the NFL." In fact, it still endures today. Alexander was the undisputed face of the Seahawks, and during his MVP year of 2005, he carried Seattle to its first-ever Super Bowl appearance with 1,880 yards and a then-NFL record 27 rushing touchdowns. John Hicks, a 2001 College Football Hall of Fame inductee and a two-time First Team All-American and undeniably one of the most outstanding Ohio State football players of all time, died Oct. 29, 2016, after a long illness. Born March 21, 1951, he was 65. Each player will receive a Hall of Fame plaque based on the pithy ones that the Hall used to use back at the start. Athletic Hall of Fame.. A man who had to endure many cheap shots at the bottom of a pile up, yet still stood tall. After excelling for six years with the Oilers, Ken was traded to the Redskins for five veteran players in 1973. But what Washington accomplished cannot be measured in yards and statistics. These slights were the source of much outrage among media outlets which blamed them on racial discrimination. [16][page needed], After retirement from football, Washington returned to the LAPD. Unfortunately, the motivation behind the signings of these players was not the same. [2], According to Time magazine's coverage of the 1940 College All-Star Game, Washington was "considered by West Coast fans the most brilliant player in the US last year. Washington retired from the NFL following the 1948 season. The Class of 2021 will be enshrined on Sunday, Aug. 8, in Canton. That's why it's important to recognize men like Washington. [24][25], One legacy of Washington's and Strode's experience in the NFL – paralleled in 1946 by racial trailblazers Marion Motley and Bill Willis in the rival All-America Football Conference – was that Branch Rickey, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, saw that blacks and whites could coexist in a violent sport without much disruption, and decided that Major League Baseball could be integrated as well. [11] The Los Angeles Tribune was especially outspoken, thanks to its African-American sports editor, William Claire "Halley" Harding, a former professional athlete and member of the debate team at Wiley College. “Electing Kenny Washington to the Hall of Fame also sends the message to students like us that being brave, overcoming obstacles and standing up … [5][3], Washington was the first Bruin to lead the nation in total offense and became the first consensus All-American in the history of the school's football program in 1939. [1] He was posthumously inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame. It should start and finish with the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His alma mater Lincoln High School has annually awarded the Kenny Washington Trophy to the school's best football player since 1949. The 2021 Hall of Fame class will be announced during the “NFL Honors” on the eve of Super Bowl LV. It was only fitting that when he was inducted into the College Hall of Fame UCLA retired #13, Kenny Washington’s jersey number. The Rams only signed Strode and Washington to avoid a potential lawsuit. He had one son, Kenny Jr., who played professional baseball. [6] Despite these achievements and the fact that he also doubled as a defensive back, he was named to second-team All-America selection instead of the first and was omitted from the East–West Shrine Game that year. Washington died of polyarteritis nodosa on June 24, 1971, at the age of 52 in Los Angeles, California. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Major League Baseball and the entire sporting world will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day today, and it's a well-deserved honor for one of our nation's heroes. These are the stories about the NFL I would like to share with future generations. Too often we confuse excellence with numbers. Two months after being fired by the Lions, Matt Patricia is returning to the New England Patriots in a new role that will combine scouting and working with the Patriots' coaching staff, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday. Washington, Strode and two other men broke through pro football's unofficial color barrier that season. © 2021 NFL Enterprises LLC. If the goal of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is to preserve its history, we need to start right now with Washington. Kenny Washington went on to become the first football player at UCLA to have his uniform retired and was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1956. All other NFL-related trademarks are trademarks of the National Football League. [2] Thanks to his connections from when he had worked at movie studios during his undergraduate years, he was also chosen for a few film roles,[2] including Rope of Sand (1949),[17] Pinky (1949),[18] and The Jackie Robinson Story (1950).[19]. [24] [25] The Hall of Fame Selection Committee will meet on January 19 to vote. Kenny Washington was born on August 31, 1918 in Los Angeles County, California, USA as Kenneth Stanley Washington. He ran head-first into not only defenders who didn't want him in the game, but also the civil rights movement. Other black athletes who would come after him would endure a similar plight. With the historic playoff meeting finally about to happen on Championship Sunday, NFL Research's Matt Okada charts why Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have never met in the playoffs before. On Thursday November 7, 2019 in Dublin, Ohio, 20 Ohio Veterans were inducted into the Hall of Fame Class of 2019. [4], In football, his position was tailback, and he often passed as much as he rushed. In a league where the overwhelming majority of players are African-American, you can't deny what he has meant to the league. It doesn't take an exhaustive Google search to find stories of players misbehaving. Kenny Washington received numerous honors but they were primarily related to his time at UCLA. Kenneth S. Washington (August 31, 1918 – June 24, 1971) was an American professional football player who was the first African-American to sign a contract with a National Football League (NFL) team in the modern (post-World War II) era. Major League Baseball continually celebrates the contributions of Jackie Robinson, its first African-American player, but the NFL's pioneer -- Kenny Washington -- isn't in the Hall of Fame. [9][10], When the Cleveland Rams moved to Los Angeles, the team sought to play in the publicly owned Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – a decision which created immediate pressure that the team be racially integrated, since black taxpayers as well as white had paid for construction of the facility. For his contribution to sports in Los Angeles, he was honored with a Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum "Court of Honor" plaque by the Coliseum commissioners. [23] His alma mater Lincoln High School has annually awarded the Kenny Washington Trophy to the school's best football player since 1949. [5] This was a rarity to have so many African Americans when only a few dozen at all played on college football teams. [8] He earned all-league recognition each year, including his first year when he suffered a knee injury that prevented him from being conscripted for the war. Washington entered a league that was not quite ready for integration. Kenny Washington: The First to Sign an NFL Contract. [12], Prior to his first NFL season Washington underwent surgery in both knees (his fifth knee surgery overall – as a child he contracted rickets and was once hit by car[4]), having torn cartilage removed from his left knee and what was characterized in the press as "a growth" from his right. An honor that has long eluded him. He died on June 24, 1971 in Los Angeles, California. 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