Wally Triplett, a trailblazing running back who was one of the first African Americans drafted by a National Football League team, died Nov. 8 at 92.
The Detroit Lions and Pennsylvania State University announced Mr. Triplett’s death but did not provide further information.
Mr. Triplett was the third African American selected in the 1949 draft, but he was the first of those draftees to play in a regular-season game. He played in 24 games for the Lions and the Chicago Cardinals.
He was also the first African American to start for Penn State, and in 1948, he and teammate Dennie Hoggard became the first African Americans to play in the Cotton Bowl. (George Taliaferro, who died Oct. 8, was the first black player drafted in the NFL when he went six rounds before Mr. Triplett in 1949.)
Mr. Triplett was inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame this year, and his appearance in that game is part of Penn State lore. According to the school, the team was asked to consider the possibility of leaving Mr. Triplett and Hoggard at home for the game in then-segregated Dallas. Teammates responded by saying: “We are Penn State. There will be no meetings” — a reference to a previous Penn State team that voted to cancel a game at segregated Miami.
Mr. Triplett was drafted by the Lions in the 19th round in 1949. He played in 18 games for Detroit from 1949-1950. On Oct. 29, 1950, against the Los Angeles Rams, he had 294 yards on four kickoff returns, an NFL record that lasted until 1994.
Wallace Triplett was born in La Mott, Pa., on April 18, 1926. He was an Army veteran of the Korean War and later held a variety of jobs, including teacher, insurance salesman and liquor store owner.
Information on survivors was not immediately available.
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