Best Known For
Willie Thrower was a pioneer for African Americans in football, the first to play quarterback professionally.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
Born in Pennsylvania in 1930, Willie Thrower made history in 1953, when he relieved Bears QB George Blanda during a game against the San Francisco 49ers. Thrower's professional career, however, was short-lived. He played another game that season, but was not re-signed by the team. Thrower went to Canada to play for the Blue Bombers in Manitoba for three seasons and finished his career playing semi-professionally in Toronto.
Born on March 22, 1930, in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, Willie Thrower was the first African-American quarterback in professional football. Sometimes referred to as "the Jackie Robinson of the football," Thrower started out as a strong high school player and went to have an impressive college athletic career. As a college player, he broke new ground, becoming the first African-American quarterback to play in the Big Ten Conference. Thrower helped his school, Michigan State University, win the national championship in 1952.
With such an impressive college football career, it should have been easy for Thrower to go professional. Professional football, however, at this time was still fairly segregated with little opportunity for African-American players. The few black players who were in the professional leagues largely held defensive positions. Though he wasn't drafted, he did receive a contract from the Chicago Bears as a back-up quarterback.
Thrower made history in October 1953, when he relieved Bears quarterback George Blanda during a game against the San Francisco 49ers. During that fateful game, he completed three out of eight passes for a total of 27 yards. Thrower's professional career, however, was short-lived. He played another game that season, but was not re-signed by the team. Thrower went to Canada to play for the Blue Bombers in Manitoba for three seasons. He finished his career playing semi-professionally in Toronto, but retired after suffering a shoulder injury.
After his football fame faded, Thrower took his life in a different direction. He became a social worker in New York City for a while and later returned to his hometown where he owned two taverns.
Willie Thrower died on February 20, 2002, in his hometown of New Kensington, Pennsylvania. He was survived by Mary, his wife, and their three sons. News reports of his death reminded the world of his impressive accomplishments and how he helped inspire other African Americans to play football.
© 2013 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.
profile name: Willie Thrower profile occupation:
Sign in with Facebook to see how you and your friends are connected to famous icons.
Your Friends' Connections
Included In These Groups
Who was the first African-American boxing champ? How about World Cycling champ? Who was the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal? What year did Jackie Robinson break baseball's color barrier? Who was Althea Gibson and what first did she achieve? Detail our collection of pioneering African-American athletes for the answers to these and many more questions, and explore our African-American Firsts: Athletes photos gallery.
African-American Firsts: Athletes 30 people in this group
Famous Arians 564 people in this group
They've sprinted, served, batted, slam-dunked and TKO'd their way into sports history. Sprinter Jesse Owens's Olympic triumphs put Hitler to shame. Basketball star Michael Jordan taught kids that they could fly. Gymnast Gabby Douglas showed that champions can come in pint-size packages, and Tiger Woods brought the game of golf to another level. Explore biographies of famous black athletes who broke records and barriers and, ultimately, captured our imaginations.
Famous Black Athletes 159 people in this group