What You Should Know About Kenny Washington’s NFL Contract Signing

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After Jackie Robinson integrated the National Football League (NFL) Kenny Washington made the next big step, becoming the first African American to land a contract in the league’s modern era. 

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Washington might not have had a long career but his presence played a vital role in moving the sport towards inclusion. In this post, we reflect on his life and contributions to the sport.

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NFL Drafts Kenny Washington Finally, the NFL Calls

Kenny Washington’s career. Video Credit: KCAL News

In 1946, Kenny Washington became the first African-American to sign an NFL contract to play for the Los Angeles Rams. 

His NFL career lasted two years in which he averaged 6.1 yards and made 8 rushing touchdowns and 859 rushing yards. In 1948, he hung his boots, UCLA retired his jersey and was inducted into the College Hall of Fame. However, Washington hasn’t made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

As fate would have it, he was able to play in the NFL. In 1946, the 12-year ban imposed on African-American players was lifted after the Los Angeles Rams faced threats of losing their lease agreement with the Los Angeles Coliseum

The condition for retaining it was signing a black player, Kenny Washington and his teammate Woody Strode. 

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How It All Began 

Spotcovery-What You Should Know About Kenny Washington’s NFL Contract Signing
Kenny Wahington (Top Left) with his teammates at UCLA. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-4.0

Kenny Washington was a California native born on 31 August 1981. He grew up alongside his uncle Rocky, who worked at the Los Angeles Police Department and his grandmother in Los Angeles. 

Washington’s interest in sports began early and dubbed in baseball and football. He led his school to the city and senior football titles.  

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He then joined the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he participated in both sports. In baseball for two years, during which he hit .300. His performances on the football field were equally outstanding, to the point that some football coaches ranked him above Kenny Washington.

In 1939, he was the nation’s top scorer in the game and became the first UCLA player to receive All-American recognition.

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Kenny Washington’s Professional Career

Anyone with an ability similar to that of Kenny Washington would play for the NFL. However, by the time he graduated from university, black players weren’t allowed to play in the league after a blanket ban was imposed in 1933. 

Consequently, the athlete trained UCLA’s football team and then played in a semi-professional league for the San Francisco Clippers and the Hollywood Bears. 

During this period, he suffered a knee injury that kept him out of the game but didn’t stop people from realizing his potential. Even though the league was smaller in stature compared to the NFL, Washington’s talents were obvious and he received the recognition for that.

Kenny Washington might not be the name that comes up often when talking about NFL’s history but he’s a significant part of it. Unfortunately, he was given the chance to play in the top league at the twilight of his career. Nonetheless, he showed up and played his best.

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