NFL Pioneer Thrower To Be Honored In Pennsylvania

By Tony McClean
Updated: September 13, 2006

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — Willie Thrower, the first African American QB in the NFL, will be honored in a ceremony to unveil a bronze statue of him on Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 7 pm at Valley High School in New Kensington, Pa.

Thrower cemented his place in NFL history on October 18, 1953 when he entered the game at the quarterback position for the Chicago Bears against the San Francisco 49ers.

Though the Bears lost 35-27 in a close game, Willie became “the Jackie Robinson of the NFL” by showing leadership, courage, and persistence in pursuit of his dream of playing quarterback in the NFL.

It would be 15 years before another African-American quarterback would take a snap in a pro game; he was cut by the Bears the next year.

Thrower later played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League until a separated shoulder forced him to retire at age 27. After his retirement from football he became a social worker in New York City.

Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Warren Moon credited Thrower as one of the trailblazers whose path he followed. Mr. Thrower started a legacy that continues today with over 20 African American Quarterbacks currently playing in the NFL.

Like Thrower, Moon also played in the CFL. He led the Edmonton Eskimos to five consecutive Grey Cup championships (1978 thru 1982) before he signing with the NFL’s Houston Oilers as a free agent in 1984

Thrower died of a heart attack in New Kensington on February 20, 2002, at the age of 71. He left us without getting much of the recognition that he deserved for fighting for racial equality in professional sports.

The Thrower Family formed the “Willie Thrower All-Pro Memorial Committee” in 2003 to raise awareness of Willie’s accomplishments and to continue his work of helping others in the community.

The Committee and New Kensington community have raised funds for the statue, scholarships for local high school students, and assistance for senior citizens in Western Pennsylvania.

NOTE: For more information about the event, please contact Will Varner of the Committee at 724-335-5462 or Lloyd Vance at 484-433-0033 .