Pro Football Hall of Famer Marion Motley, a bruising fullback for the Cleveland Browns and one of the first black players of the modern era, died yesterday. He was 79.
Motley had prostate cancer for at least a year. He died yesterday morning at his son's Cleveland home, Hall of Fame spokesman Joe Horrigan said.
Motley, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound fullback, rushed for 4,720 yards in nine pro seasons in the All-America Football Conference and National Football League.
He led the NFL in rushing with 810 yards on 140 carries in 1950, the Browns' first season in the NFL.
Motley was also the AAFC's career leading rusher with 3,024 yards. Along with fellow Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham and kicker Lou Groza, the Browns won AAFC championships all four years the league existed.
"The Hall of Fame has lost a dear friend in Marion Motley, not only because he was a member of the Hall, but he was also a longtime Canton area resident and a good friend to all. He will be sorely missed," Horrigan said.
During his first two seasons with the Browns, Motley was also a solid linebacker before he specialized on offense when the Browns split offensive and defensive players. He also returned 48 kickoffs for 1,122 yards--23.4 yards per return.
Before Motley, pro teams in the modern era didn't have black players. The Browns made history in 1946 when they signed Motley and teammate Bill Willis. That same season Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, also black, signed with the NFL's Los Angeles Rams.
The NFL had a number of black players in the 1920s, but an unspoken ban left them out of pro football in the '30s and '40s until Motley signed with the Browns.
Motley is survived by a brother, sister and three sons. There was no word on funeral arrangements.
CAPTION: Marion Motley, who had prostate cancer, led NFL in rushing in 1950, the Browns' first year in the league.