Former Penn State football player Wally Triplett to be inducted into Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame
Former running-back and linebacker Wally Triplett, is being inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame. Along with Triplett, Texas A&M linebacker Quentin Coryatt, Arkansas/Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, USC head coach John Robinson, Texas running back Ricky Williams, and Oklahoma strong safety Roy Williams are all being inducted.
Born and raised in La Mott, Pennsylvania, Triplett was a talented player coming out of high school. He received an offer to play for the University of Miami. However, during this time segregation was at large across the United States, Miami being one of those segregated schools. Triplett was offered a scholarship under the assumption he was white. Once the University of Miami discovered that Triplett was African-American, they rescinded the offer.
As time went on, Triplett earned a senatorial scholarship and chose to attend Penn State University. In 1945, he became the first African-American to start for Penn State Football.
After their game against Michigan State, the Nittany Lions were scheduled to play the University of Miami. At that time, teams would leave their African-American athletes at home when playing segregated schools, like Miami. With Triplett and Dennie Hoggard, the only other African-American on the team, Penn State had to make a decision. In light of this situation, the team took a vote and unanimously decided to cancel the game.
“We play all or none.”
Later in 1948, Penn State was planning to play number three ranked Southern Methodist University in the Cotton Bowl. SMU’s hometown Dallas, who was segregated at the time, once again brought the question of whether to leave Triplett and Hoggard at home. The team, led by captain Steve Suhey responded, “We are Penn State, there will be no meetings.”
This expression of solidarity continued on into their game against SMU. With the game close throughout, Triplett caught the game-tying 6-yard reception which made the score 13-13.
By the end of the 1948 season, Triplett racked up 424 rushing yards, 90 receiving yards, and six touchdowns. He also averaged 26.8 yards per punt return and snatched three interceptions.
At the end of his Penn State career, Triplett was drafted in the 19th round by the Detroit Lions.
He became the first African-American to be drafted to the NFL. After playing two seasons with the Lions, Triplett left the NFL to serve in the Korean War.
Following two years of service, he returned to the NFL and played one season with the Chicago Cardinals.
Triplett is the second Nittany Lion to be inducted in to the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame, the first being Lyndell Mitchell. The ceremony is being held in the West Concourse of the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. It is free to the public and the exact date is yet to be finalized.