Alabama honors university’s first Black football players

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — John Mitchell and Wilbur Jackson already had their place in Alabama football history. Now, the Crimson Tide’s first Black players also share a prominent spot outside Bryant-Denny stadium.

The university unveiled a plaque honoring Jackson and Mitchell Saturday in a ceremony before the current team’s end-of-spring A-Day game, more than 50 years after they broke the color barrier.

“It was a moment I will never forget,” said Mitchell, who had become emotional when he spoke at the ceremony. “It was very touching. You grow up a little Black kid from south Alabama and these are things you never dream of. ”

The two 70-year-olds were also honored at halftime.

The introverted Jackson became the Tide’s first Black scholarship football player when he signed on Dec. 13, 1969. In 1971, defensive end Mitchell, a transfer from Eastern Arizona Junior College, became the first to play in a game.

The longtime Pittsburgh Steelers assistant and current assistant head coach wound up starting all 24 games over two seasons and becoming a two-time All-Southeastern Conference performer.

Jackson became a star running back for Alabama, the only school to offer him a scholarship. He was a first-round draft pick in 1974 by the San Francisco 49ers, where he played five seasons before spending three more with the then-Washington Redskins.

“If somebody had told me when I was 18 or 19 years old, that 50 years later we would be here today being recognized for integration, I would never have believed it,” Jackson said. “And yet here we are.”

Both are now members of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

Tide coach Nick Saban showed his team a video of Jackson and Mitchell last year, the 50th anniversary of Mitchell’s first season on the field.

“These guys were people who did something that nobody else was really willing…

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