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Willie Thrower was an African American that paved the way for the way football is played today. He was the first Black quarterback in the NFL. He was from New Kensington and went to high school there where was a stand out player. The high school is now known as Valley Highschool where his memorial stands. This is where he caught the eye of college scouts and went onto play and continue his education at Michigan State. He went through a lot of challenges because of the color of his skin to accomplish all that he did.

This is an image of the statue that stands at Valley Stadium in memory of Willie Thrower.

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This is also at Valley High school to give a quick overview of what Thrower did and the importance behind it.

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This an image of a young Thrower during his playing days.

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WIllie Thrower was born on March 22, 1930 in New Kensington Pennsylvania. He attended New Kensington High where he played football. He started off as a half back his freshman year and was later moved to quarterback when he was sophomore. Thrower's coach decided to change the offense to the Wing T and since he was used to getting direct snaps, the coach felt that he would be a perfect fit for quarterback. Thrower became a very good player in high school and was starting to get scholarship offers to play college football. Unfortunately for Thrower, schools started to pull their offers once they came to actually see him play. The scouts were not aware that Thrower was Black, once they realized this they didn't want him to come to their school anymore. At this time coaches and schools felt that Black players were not smart enough to play football so they didn't want them, especially quarterback. This also had an impact on the team. The team was invited to play at the Orange Bowl Prep Classic to play, but that was also taken away once they realized New Kensington's starting quarterback was Black. Throughout all the ups and downs, Thrower had a good high school career and helped his team win 2 WPIAL champion ships.

Thrower went onto Michigan State to play football. At this time though freshman were not aloud to play. He then played the following year as a sophomore. That year he became the first African American quarterback in the Big Ten. Thrower had made a huge accomplishment's without even having to play a down of football. He did something that no one had ever done. Throughout his time there, the team won a national championship in his senior year. He had to come in during their run and he helped them pull off the big win. The team went undefeated and won the championship in 1952.

The following year Thrower entered the 1953 NFL draft. He didn't end up getting drafted but was picked up by the Chicago Bears. He was offered a one year deal to play for them. He had made a huge leap for the future African American athletes regardless of how he made it into the league. With him signing that contract, he became the first Black NFL quarterback. Even though he made it to the biggest stage of the game, he still had plenty of challenges to face. Thrower was not given an equal chance like the rest of the players. The coaches and other people in the organization did not have a lot of confidence in him because he was Black.

Thrower didn't end up having the a long NFL career but he started to break the barriers for the upcoming Black quarterbacks. He had accomplished a lot just by getting signed to a team. He was released just after only one season in Chicago. He continued though to chase his dream of playing football. Thrower never quit because of the discrimination and continued to move forward. He had a tryout in the Canadian football league but unfortunately didn't make the team. He was later though picked up by a team in the ORFU. This is where Thrower had a career ending injury and was forced to retire.

After football Thrower lived a very lowkey lifestyle. He became a social worker in New York and was very content. He later on ended up moving back to his hometown in New Kensington. He then became the owner of two taverns. Thrower though did not tell a lot of people that he played in the NFL. A lot of close people around him didn't even know that he was in the NFL at all. It wasn't until 2001 when he was on ABC for Black History Month that he opened up about being the first Black quarterback in the NFL. He wasn't one to bring that type of attention to his name, he wanted people to know him as who he was. Not like him or talk to him because he was in the NFL. Willie Thrower later passed away on February 20, 2002. He passed away in his home town New Kensington from a heart attack at the age of 71.

Thrower had an impact on the game that many greats couldn't accomplish in their long careers and it only took Thrower a season do this. He open the door for so many Black quarterbacks and athletes in general. He showed them that they could make it because he did. The year that Thrower died, a record was set that 12 Black quarterbacks started in the NFL. Thrower impacted a long line of quarterbacks to follow their dreams. He inspired the hall of fame quarterback Warren Moon to follow his dreams. Moon is currently the only Black quarterback in the National Football Hall of Fame. Thrower changed the game forever and this is something that no one will ever be able to do again. He made the game the way it is today because of how strong and determined he was to never give up. Even though Thrower didn't get a lot of recognition in his playing days and while he was alive, there is a monument that stands by the Valley Stadium. This is where Thrower played high school football. This is there to remember the great legacy that he had and show how important to not only football but also in the history of African Americans.

  • Thrower, Willie 1930-2002, Austing American-Statesman, August 4, 200
  • Willie Thrower(1930-2002)- Pennsylvania Historical Markers, The Leprechauns, 2/4/2007,
  • Groundbreaking QB WIllie THrower honored with statue, Tome Yerace, September 29, 2006,
  • Pioneers, Milestones and Firsts,
  • Willie Thrower: Breaking Barriers, Febuary 24, 2010,
  • Willie Thrower: A perfect name for a trailblazing quarterback, Jason Reid, October 5, 2017,
  • William "Willie The Pro" Thrower (1930-2002), Alexander Klein, October 13, 2010,
  • Willie Thrower,

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