Wally Triplett (1926 - 2018), pioneering National Football League running back

Paola Ditto
Novembre 10, 2018

His 80-yard return against Green Bay as a rookie set the team record for longest yards from scrimmage.

Triplett was a running back and return specialist for the Lions for two seasons before leaving the team to fight in the Korean War. He resides among the great men who helped reshape the game as they faced the challenges of segregation and discrimination. He played in 18 games, rushing for 313 yards and a touchdown.

"We fondly reflect on his great achievements and send our heartfelt condolences to the Triplett family".

A three-year letterman at Penn State, Triplett was also the first African-American to ever start for the Nittany Lions.

Perhaps his most memorable on-field achievement occurred on October 29, 1950 at the Los Angeles Rams when he produced one of the most impressive special teams performances in National Football League history. His final kickoff return in the third quarter netted 42 yards. His record lasted for 44 years before it was broken in 1994.

Playing against the Los Angeles Rams, Triplett set a single-game record with 294 kick return yards on four kickoff returns - including a 97-yard touchdown. Triplett also was the first African-American starter at Penn State. Penn State was rumored to be meeting with its opponent, Southern Methodist University, to discuss removing these players from the bowl game team. He was inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame in 2018. During the 1946 season, the Penn State football team voted to not play Miami when that school told Penn State they would only play the game if Triplett and other black players on the team did not play.

A native of La Mott, Pa., Triplett was a three-sport athlete in high school starring in football, basketball and baseball at Cheltenham High School.

Wally is preceded in death by his wife, Leonore (Bivins) Triplett, and son, Wallace Triplett.

Triplett is survived by his three children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

NOTE: While Triplett was only the third African-American to be selected in the 1949 NFL Draft, he was the first of the drafted players to take the field in a regular season game.

A La Mott, Pennsylvania, native, he was a three-year letter victor for the Nittany Lions and the first African-American to start for the football team.

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