Indiana Legends

George Taliaferro

“Indiana Legends: George Taliaferro” is the remarkable story of a man whose talent, courage and determination helped him smash racial barriers to become the first African American drafted by the National Football League.

This half-hour documentary chronicles George Taliaferro’s rise to stardom, from his emergence as a high school phenom in Gary, Indiana to an All-Pro career in the NFL in the 1950s. In an era when many “gridders” played multiple positions, Taliaferro was a standout, recognized for his remarkable gifts as a running back, quarterback, kicker and defensive back. He led Indiana University to its first Big Ten championship in 1945 and earned All American honors from 1945-48. Off the field, despite his football celebrity, Taliaferro experienced the full brunt of race bigotry and exclusion. Never one to meekly tolerate injustice, he spearheaded an effort to desegregate the IU Bloomington campus.

After his junior year, in 1948, Taliaferro cemented his place in football history by becoming the first ever African American chosen in the NFL draft. The “Jackie Robinson of Football,” Taliaferro’s remarkable success in the pro ranks changed the game forever, bringing speed, quickness and versatility and opening pro football to African American athletes hungry for a chance to succeed.

Taliaferro’s story concludes where it began–back in Indiana, where after retiring from football he became a special assistant to then-IU President John Ryan. Charged with implementing affirmative action programs throughout the IU system, Taliaferro worked tirelessly and with great success to open the doors of higher education to minorities.

“Indiana Legends: George Taliaferro” is about race, sports and the ability of one man to excel in athletics and in life despite the bigotry meant to hold him down. The documentary places Taliaferro alongside Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and other African American pioneers who stories transcend sports and touch us all.