On The Right Side Of History Fri, Sep 23, 2016
As you all surely know by now, I'm endlessly (and obnoxiously, some may say) proud to be a Kentucky Wildcat. The pride runs deep - it's as much a part of me as my hair and my skin - but nothing (not even 8 National Championships :D) has ever made me more proud of my Alma Mater than the reason for an historical gathering last Thursday night.
In 1965, Nate Northington and Greg Page became the first African Americans to accept scholarships to play football at an SEC (Southeastern Conference) school. In 1966, Houston Hogg and Wilbur Hackett, Jr. followed in their footsteps and also signed with UK. On September 30, 1967, Nate Northington became the first African American to ever play in an SEC game when he logged 3 minutes against Ole Miss.
As momentous as those 3 minutes would prove to be for the future of college football and color barriers in America, it came as an afterthought to Northington and his teammates. Greg Page, his fellow SEC trailblazer, had tragically died the night before after being paralyzed during a drill in practice weeks prior.
The death of his friend and roommate was too much for Northington, and he finished out his college career at Western Kentucky. Hackett and Hogg promised that they would finish their careers at UK to carry on the legacy that he and Page started. In 1969, Wilbur Hackett became the SEC's first African-American team captain in any sport, and earned All-SEC honors multiple times throughout his career.
Thursday night, the University honored these four trailblazers with a 3,500-pound bronze statue in front of the football complex. The four men stand side-by-side as the larger-than-life heroes they are. It goes without saying that breaking barriers is never easy- death threats and verbal abuse became their norm as they traveled across the South for games - but now, decades later, from the field to the stands, Saturdays are the most racially diverse day of the week, because of them.
Here's to the celebration of courage and bravery, smashing barriers, unity through sports...and Wildcats :)