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Kenny Washington
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Kenny Washington was the first African-American to play modern professional football. He is sometimes referred to as the "Jackie Robinson of pro football."

Kenny Washington was born in 1918 in Los Angeles, California. He was a star running back at Abraham Lincoln High School in Los Angeles and from there attended the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Washington's father, Edgar "Blue" Washington, played professional baseball for the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs.

In 1939, along with Woody Strode and Jackie Robinson (later to play baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers), Washington played in a powerful UCLA backfield that vied with national champion and cross-town rival USC for the Pacific Conference Championship and the chance to play in the 1940 Rose Bowl. UCLA and USC played a 0-0 tie; USC was awarded the conference championship based on its better won/lost record.

In UCLA's trademark single-wing offense, Kenny Washington played left half back, a position that called upon him to pass and run. In his senior year (1939), he rushed for 1,915 yards and led the nation in total offense; he also played safety on defense and played all but 20 minutes that entire season. His career passing yards at UCLA totaled 1,300; his career total offense at UCLA was 3,206 yards. Washington also played baseball at UCLA, batting .454 in 1937 and .350 in 1938.

In 1939 Kenny Washington was chosen second-team All America in football. Many thought he should have been selected first-team All-America but was not because of his race. Racial prejudice also was the reason he was not selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game that year. After graduating from UCLA, Kenny Washington could not play in the National Football League because African-Ameicans were not allowed. Instead, he played for the Hollywood Bears of the Pacific Coast Professional Football League from 1941 to 1945.

In 1946, the Cleveland Rams of the National Football League planned to move the team to Los Angeles. In order to play in the city's publicly-owned 92,000 seat stadium, the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Rams had to agree to hire African-American players. The Rams chose Kenny Washington and his former UCLA teammate Woody Strode to be their first African-American players -- and the first to play in the modern NFL.

Kenny Washington played for the Rams for three years. After football be became an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. He was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1956 and his number 13 jersey was the first to be retired at UCLA.

More about Kenny Washington...

Kenny Washington Biography...from Wikipedia

Kenny Washington Biography

Unsung heroes of Rams football integration...how Kenny Washington and Woody Strode broke the NFL's color barrier.

Woody Strode - The Football Years...video produced by Woody Strode, Kenny Washington's good friend and teammate at UCLA and in the NFL

Fields of Glory - Kenny Washington and Woody Strode...an NFL video

Kenny Washington at UCLA
Department of Special Collections/UCLA Library
A1713 Charles E. Young Research Library