By Matt Noonan
As we announced yesterday, Noontime Sports is celebrating Black History Month with a post every Monday through Friday on the men and women that have or continue to make an impact on the sports world.
Today, we’re highlighting Bobby Marshall, who similar to Fritz Pollard, was one of the first African American’s to play professional football.
Getting to know Bobby Marshall:
- Bobby Marshall was born on March 12, 1880, and is known for playing professional football, as well as five other sports, including baseball and hockey.
- He guided his high school baseball team – Minneapolis Central High School – to a pair of championships in 1900 and 1901 while playing first base.
- Marshall attended the University of Minnesota where he played for both the baseball and football teams. Additionally, he was the first African American letter winner in what would later become the Big Ten Conference.
- As an active member of numerous Gophers athletic department, Marshall earned a pair of All-American awards as an end for the Minnesota football team where he led the Maroon and Gold to a 27-2 record over three seasons (1904-1906). Additionally, he was an all-conference baseball player, as well as a member of the school’s track and field, boxing, and hockey teams.
- As noted by most historians, one of Marshall’s most impressive games with the Gophers’ football team occurred in 1906 when he kicked a field goal, which at the time was worth fourth points, that helped Minnesota edge the University of Chicago, 4-2.
- Following his graduation, Marshall and Fritz Pollard became the first two African Americans to play in what is now the National Football League (NFL). Marshall competed in the league’s (American Professional Football Association) first game on September 26, 1920 as a member of the Rock Island Independents.
The Independents concluded the APFA’s initial season with a 6-2-2 record while Bobby Marshall was named a Third Team All-Pro.
- While Bobby Marshall is remembered for being one of the first African American’s to play football, he was also the first Black athlete to play semi-professional hockey. He would also become the first African American to coach at his high school and as a football assistant with the Minnesota football team.
- Outside of coaching and playing football, Marshall competed in the Negro League with the St. Paul Colored Gophers and Chicago Leland Giants. He also played semi-professional baseball, too.
- Bobby Marshall practiced law when not playing sports, however, it appears as if he did not spend much time away from football or baseball – in fact, he played football until he was 56-years-old. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
Articles and Links on Bobby Marshall:
- The University of Minnesota celebrated the start of Black History Month with a feature on Bobby Marshall.
- The Star Tribune revisited Bobby Marshall’s first game as a professional football player last year.
- In 2019, Bobby Marshall was inducted into the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame.
- In 2016, the NFL highlighted Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall, who opened the door for integration.