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Willie Thrower
Date of birth: March 22, 1930
Place of birth: New Kensington, Pennsylvania
Date of death: February 20, 2002 (aged 71)
Career information
Position(s): Quarterback
College: Michigan State
 As player:
1953 Chicago Bears
Playing stats at

Willie Thrower (March 22, 1930-February 20, 2002) was a professional American football player. Born near Pittsburgh in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, he was the first African American player to appear in a "modern-era" (Post World War II) professional game at the quarterback position in the National Football League for the Chicago Bears in 1953.

In college he quarterbacked Michigan State to a national championship in 1952.

On Oct. 18, 1953, Thrower became the NFL's first Post-WWII African-American quarterback when he appeared in a game for the Chicago Bears. 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. Contrary to what was published in the popular press, Thrower did not play for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers or the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League.1 He probably played with one of the many semi-pro teams in the Toronto and central Ontario region (these teams, though seldom remembered, were seen as a farm league for both the CFL and NFL) 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. In the late 1960s Willie worked as a child care counselor at the Hawthorne Cedar Knolls School (a residential treatment center) in Westchester County, New York

He died of a heart attack in New Kensington on February 20, 2002, at the age of 71. In 2006, a statue of Thrower was erected near Valley High School in New Kensington to honor his accomplishments. The statue was unveiled during a Valley High School football game in September attended by Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney as well as Thrower's family. Willie Thrower was also mentioned by former NFL quarterback Warren Moon in his Pro Football Hall of Fame acceptance speech. Moon thanked Thrower, among others, for giving him inspiration during a time when few African-Americans played the quarterback position in the NFL.


1 There is no record for Willie Thrower in any of the all time rosters of the CFL teams he is often cited as playing with.

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