In the rich history of Penn State football, few have had the impact of Wally Triplett. The first ever African-American to start and earn a varsity letter for the Nittany Lions died today. He was 92 years old.
A native of La Mott, Pennsylvania, Triplett became the first African-American to play in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, and went on to catch the game tying touchdown in 1948 when the Nittany Lions tied SMU 13-13. It was not until 2018 that he was inducted into the game’s Hall of Fame.
Triplett’s contributoins to football did not stop when he left Penn State. In another first, he was the first after African-American to be drafted and play for an NFL back in 1949 for the Detroit Lions. The Lions selected him in the 19th round of the 1949 NFL Draft, which made him the third African-American ever selected. George Taliaferro was the first just six round earlier that same year.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) November 8, 2018
Triplett was a part of teams that went 23-3-2 over his final three seasons in Happy Valley, including a 9-0-1 mark in 1947. He still sits fourth in Penn State’s record book for longest punt return (85) yards, and second overall with a career average of 16.5 yards per return.