By Ty Coney
On Friday, April 8, Springfield College will hold its seventh annual Sports and Social Justice Symposium. The main conversation will be about the position Black coaches hold as social justice figures.
It will feature Communications/Sports Journalism professor Martin Dobrow and Aaron Kelton, a Springfield College graduate who is currently the defensive backs coach at Howard University.
Prior to the event, guest speaker Terry McConnell will be giving a presentation on his book, “Breaking through the Line: Bobby Marshall, the NFL’s First Black Player.”
McConnell, 73, is currently a part-time student studying Exercise Physiology at Springfield College. He spent time researching Bobby Marshall after finding a picture of his grandfather and Marshall. McConnell’s grandfather was the manager for one of Marshall’s football teams.
“I was looking through pictures from my aunt, who had recently passed away and I found a picture of my grandfather and Bobby and I remembered he had this great black player and on the back of the picture was the name ‘Bobby Marshall.’ I was like, ‘That must be the player,’” McConnell explained.
In conversation about the history of Sports and Social Justice, names such as Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and LeBron James – athletes who have broken barriers to allow all to prosper in American sports – almost always come up. One name flies under the radar: Bobby Marshall, the first Black NFL player.
Marshall, who was born in 1880 as the grandson of former Virginia slaves, broke color barriers in his time playing collegiate and professional sports. He was the first Black athlete at the University of Minnesota, and was commonly regarded as one of the most athletic individuals of the early 20th century.
“He played pro football until the age of 54, he was a professional tri-sport athlete in football, baseball, and hockey. He was just one of the most gifted athletes of that time. To the point where you wonder what he could do if he was here now,” McConnell stated.
The presentation will allow attendees to talk with him about how the book aligns with the Symposium’s topic, along with parts of Marshall’s life. All will also have the opportunity to get a personally signed copy of McConnell’s book.
The event starts at 9:15 a.m. in the Phyllis B. Dodge Room of the Campus Union – presented by the Division of Inclusion and Community Engagement – and is free and open to the public.
Photo Courtesy Springfield College