On October 18, 1953, a crowd of 40,740 fans at Wrigley Field saw Bears coach George Halas – frustrated by the play of his starting quarterback, George Blanda – send an undrafted rookie into the game to lead his offense. With five minutes left to go and his team down 35-21, Willie Thrower took command of the Chicago offense and completed a pass to the 4-yard-line of their opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. Halas promptly re-inserted Blanda, drawing the ire of his team’s fans: “Blanda and [Fred] Morrison came into the game, and the crowd responded with a resounding razzberry. They wanted Willie to put it over.” Instead, Morrison scored the touchdown.
Thrower would return to the field, ending the game by throwing an interception to San Francisco’s Lowell Wagner. He would never attempt an NFL pass again. But despite going just 3-for-8 for 27 yards, Thrower had made history. He had become the first Black man to play quarterback in the NFL. He would never appear in an NFL game again.
Continue reading “Willie Thrower: A Forgotten Pioneer”