It’s Famous Friday!

Franco Harris

Franco Harris was one of the greats in the NFL who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Franco Harris was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, on March 7, 1950.  He was the son of Cad and Gina Harris.  His father was an African American soldier who served in World War II and his mother was Italian who he met and married during the war.

Harris grew up in New Jersey, and earned a scholarship to play football at Penn State University.  While there, he became an All-American fullback.  His collegiate success in football allowed him to be drafted by the Steelers in the 1972 NFL draft.  During that first year of play, he was named the NFL Rookie of the Year.

Although most associated Harris as being African American, he became popular with Pittsburgh’s Italian American population. His fans in that community dubbed themselves as “Franco’s Italian Army”; one of which included Frank Sinatra.  Many of these fans would wear army helmets with his number on them to show their support.

Harris was involved in one of pro football’s most famous and controversial plays called the “Immaculate Reception,” in the 1972 AFC playoffs. During this game, with only 22 seconds left, a throw by the Steelers’ quarterback bounced off one of the opponents and Harris caught it just before it hit the ground to run it in for the game winning touchdown.  This began the dynasty the Steelers would have in the NFL.  In the Pittsburgh airport there is a statue of Harris and the Immaculate Reception.

Franco Harris was chosen for nine consecutive Pro Bowls and was the MVP of Super Bowl IX.  This made him the first African American and the first Italian-American to be named Super Bowl MVP.

Harris’s career ended after 13 years and four Super Bowl Championships.  He was later inducted into the professional football Hall of Fame in 1990.  He currently holds the all time leader in rushing yards for the Steelers and ranks 12th on the NFL rushing yardage list, as well as ranking 10th on the NFL rushing touchdowns list.  In honor of his mixed racial heritage John Grisham, a famous author, refers to Franco as the “greatest Italian football player.”

 

Nadia Wooten

Vice-President Project Race

 

Picture Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

It’s Famous Friday!

Famous Friday: Phillip Lindsay

Phillip Lindsay is the first undrafted offensive player ever to make it to the NFL’s Pro Bowl! Not only did the 24 year old running back for the Denver Broncos take an unlikely path to the Pro Bowl, but he is living an unlikely NFL life!

Phillip is the middle child of Troy and Diane Lindsay’s five children, each of whom went to college on a full ride athletic scholarship. The Lindsay family is incredibly close and Phillip is taking full advantage of playing for his hometown team by maximizing that closeness as he lives in his parents’ basement! Very few young men making the kind of money this football phenom is making would chose to live with mom and dad, but Phillip is enjoying every minute.  The family loves to play dominos and cards and tell jokes and the time together is keeping Phillip grounded during his quick rise to national athletic fame.

“My family is my rock, they’re my backbone and they keep me going when I’m down,” Lindsay said. “There’s nothing that you can’t do when you have a strong family with you. That’s like having one stick and being able to break it or having 10 or 15 sticks together that you can’t break. When I’m with them, I feel like I can’t be broke.”

Phillip’s father, Troy was also a high school football star and held the rushing record for all Denver Public Schools from 1979 until Phillip broke it in his senior year in 2013. But that incredibly special moment was quickly followed by a huge disappointment, when he suffered a severe ACL tear. Thankfully the coach at the University of Colorado Boulder did not withdraw Phillip’s scholarship offer, but gave him a redshirt year to rehabilitate. He earned the nickname “Tasmanian Devil” due to his quickness and determination on the field, but his parents had called him the same name from the time he was a baby with a unique but speedy crawling style.

Lindsay set all kinds of records for the Colorado Buffalos and was selected as a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award for the nation’s top running back. The NFL was supposed to be the next step, but he failed to get an invite to the NFL Combine. He was shocked and very upset to be overlooked. And the Combine snub would not be the last time. Draft Day was agonizing as he watched player after player, round after round, without a call from a team. Despite all his success he was snubbed again and wondered if the dream he had held since he was 8 years old was slipping away. But many scouts had attended his CU Pro Day and he had not been completely forgotten. Almost immediately after the draft the teams started calling. With a little prompting from his mom, Phillip signed with the Broncos.

After a very strong preseason, where he showed a ton of grit, Phillip made the final cut and was placed in the lineup as third string running back. But in the very first week of the regular season, he rushed for 71 yards, had two receptions and scored a touchdown. He did not stay in that third string position for long! He ended his rookie season with 1,278 yards, 10 touchdowns and an AFC Player of the Week honor. But the greatest accolade was being named to the Pro Bowl.

Karson Baldwin – Project RACE Teens Co-President

Photo Credit: DailyCamera.com 

It’s Famous Friday!

QB Patrick Mahomes

“Mahomes’ talent is as good as anybody who has ever played the game.” – Brett Favre

Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has captivated football fans this year and become the most exciting player in the NFL. Mahomes, in just his second NFL season, has led his team to a thrilling 8-1 start and, with eight 300 yard passing games in a row, has found himself as the current MVP favorite! The frenzy over this new superstar reminds me of the way fans react to LeBron! This guy is obviously a very special athlete.

The 23 year old was born in Tyler, Texas to Pat Mahomes Sr. and Randi Martin. His interracially married parents divorced when he was young, but the family remained close. Pat Mahomes Sr. had a long career as an MLB pitcher when young Patrick was growing up, playing with the Twins, Red Sox, Mets, Rangers, Cubs and Pirates. His father’s career made for a fun childhood for Patrick, allowing him to regularly hang out on the road with superstars like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

“It helped out that I went to private school when I was younger so they let me skip a few weeks at a time,” Mahomes said. “I would miss school for about a week or two get my work in advance and I’d go up and just hang out with him (dad). He’d still stay on me about doing my school work, but it was good experience to be around him and travel with him. I remember riding buses from stadium to stadium.”

When he wasn’t on the road with his dad, Patrick was raised in Whitehouse, Texas with his younger brother, Jackson, and a little sister, Mia. Patrick is a great big brother, known to be very protective of his sister and a role model for his brother. He didn’t play football until middle school, and even then, played safety, not quarterback. He was a three sport standout athlete (football, baseball, and basketball) at Whitehouse High School, where he was named a 3 star prospect by Rivals, ESPN and 247 sports.

Patrick started dating soccer player Brittany Matthews in high school and they are still together today. In his junior year of high school he first established himself as a quarterback and led his team to the district championship. Even then, he was a classic dual threat QB who could throw or run the ball with the best in the country and was named Maxpreps 2013-14 Athlete of the Year. He also continued to excel in baseball, throwing a no-hitter as a senior. He was so good, that he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, but having decided on football, did not sign a contract.

It is no surprise, then, that he was heavily recruited by colleges. He decided on Texas Tech and as a freshman, continued to play both football and baseball. After setting the Big 12 freshman record for passing yards in a game, with 598 against Baylor, it became pretty clear that football was his game. During his pre-draft pro day in 2017, he threw a pass that was almost 80-yards.The man has a strong arm and the NFL took notice. He was drafted 10th overall by the Chiefs, who traded up to get him. His four-year contract is worth more than $16 million plus he got a signing bonus of more than $10 million! Not bad for a 23 year old. Mahomes played backup his first year in the league and didn’t get on the field until the final game of the season. But apparently that’s all it took. This year he has not only started every game, but set the league on fire. He is breaking all kinds of records and leading his team to weekly decisive victories that leave people in awe of his abilities.

The 6’3” phenom is incredibly talented yet obviously works really hard at his game. But he does still like to relax and have fun sometimes. His favorite TV shows are Game of Thrones, Westworld and, Power. But, he’d much rather use his time off, staying both active and competitive.

“My favorite hobby especially this offseason was probably golf,” Mahome said. “I really tried to get into golf. My dad played so it’s something else I compete against him in. He is definitely better, but I did beat him when he came to Kansas City one time. That was my only time I’ve ever beat him though.”

That competitive spirit is serving him well and I am one of millions who are happy to be here to see it in action.

  • Karson Baldwin, Project RACE Teens Co-President

 

 

Photo Credit: centerfieldmaz.com

 

Project RACE and Nike

Project RACE and Nike

I was in Turlock, California today. It’s where Colin Kaepernick grew up—a multiracial boy adopted by white parents in a city where African American comprise less than 2% of the population. I saw one black person there today in a sea of white faces. I can only imagine that life there was challenging for him. Yet he played football on teams with predominately white players. He made friends and had family; he survived. And he always stood up for what he believed in.

Colin Kaepernick did not set out to make a difference at that young age, but he found himself in the center of a battle as he grew older. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Kaepernick was signed into an ad deal with Nike, which was announced this week.

The gist of the ad is when he says, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

My multiracial son and I started Project RACE in 1990 because we believed that multiracial children needed representation in Washington, in states, at schools, in the medical world, and in many other areas. We were told that we were crazy; that we would never change the way Americans viewed multiracial and biracial people. We did.

We sacrificed. We fought to be heard. My stories of personal sacrifices that I made were many and some were heartbreaking. I heard from parents of children who were dying because they couldn’t get bone marrow from another multiracial person who could be their match. Many of them died. I talked to people who were shamed because their parents were of different races. I stood up as teachers told our children that they could only pick one race. I stood up for them because that’s what Project RACE has stood for and has done for the past 28 years.

You know Colin Kaepernick’s story and how he started a wave of protests among NFL players in 2016 having to do with racial inequality and police brutality. Colin did it because he felt it was the right thing to do, just as we did. His endorsement deal has brought an ugly debate within America. Some people disagree with the original premise and others talk about Nike and Kaepernick being in it just for the money. Yes, Nike is taking a risk, Colin is taking a risk, and Project RACE members take risks.

At the start of the ad, Kaepernick says: “If people say your dreams are crazy, if they laugh at what you think you can do, good. Stay that way, because what nonbelievers fail to understand is that calling a dream crazy is not an insult, it’s a compliment.” He said what I was thinking during the 1990s and beyond.

Project RACE stands with Colin Kaepernick and Nike because this is America and because we can.

Susan Graham for Project RACE

NFL Racism

 

 NFL INVESTIGATES ALLEGED HARASSMENT ON MIAMI DOLPHINS

Guard Richie Incognito, who is white, was suspended after allegations that he sent text messages that are said to be racist and threatening to biracial teammate Jonathan Martin, a tackle who has left the team for emotional counseling. The scandal started a debate about harassment, bullying, locker-room culture and workplace conduct.