UCLA will honor former players Woody Strode and Kenny Washington before the kickoff of its game against Memphis on Saturday night.
Strode and Washington were two of four men, along with Marion Motley and Bill Willis, who broke the color barrier in modern professional football. In 1946, all four played professional football a year before Jackie Robinson became the first black player in Major League Baseball.
Washington and Strode signed with the NFL's Los Angeles Rams while Motley and Willis signed with the Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football League.
Strode's son, Kalai and Washington's daughter, Karin Washington Cohen, will serve as honorary team captains for UCLA and be on the field for the coin toss. Sam Storey, a member of UCLA's team from 1933-1934 will also be honored.
In 1939, Washington was the first consensus All-American in UCLA football history. Before he signed with the Rams on March 21, 1946, he played semi-pro football for the Hollywood Bears. He and Strode signed with the Rams after the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission pressured the team into integrating upon moving from Cleveland. Their presence ended a 12-year ban on black players in the NFL that had started in 1933.
Both Motley and Willis are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Washington played three seasons in the NFL while Strode played in 1946.
A documentary about the four players, titled "The Forgotten Four" premieres at UCLA on September 9 before it's released on EPIX on September 26. The hour-long documentary (a teaser for the film is embedded above) chronicles their journey into professional football.
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- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Woody Strode
- Kenny Washington
- UCLA football
- Marion Motley
- Bill Willis