Rapid by a show of fingers how numerous of you ever heard of Dick Leftridge ahead of these days? I have to confess I much too by no means heard of Mr. Leftridge until eventually not too long ago, when I was contacted by his son Jack Richard Leftridge Jr. The youthful namesake is on a quest to have his father’s title and achievements remembered and thoroughly acknowledged in the record guides. The timing of this movement could not have arrive at a improved time in lieu of the really anticipated release of the Disney film “The Specific” because of to open up in theaters. The Specific is centered on the lifetime of the late Syracuse great Ernie Davis who was the 1st African-American football participant to gain the Heisman (1961).
Like Mr. Davis all accounts place to the reality that Dick Leftridge was a pioneer in his personal correct, according to my analysis and a synopsis been given from his son, Dick Leftridge was the initially African-American to obtain a football scholarship to engage in for a major faculty in the south, immediately after he signed with West Virginia College in 1962, which at the time played in the Southern meeting, below the Mason Dixon line. The recruitment and signing of Dick Leftridge accompanied by the subsequent signing of an additional black participant Roger Alford represented a change in the society at the college. In accordance to Richard Leftridge Jr., WVU was not his father’s initially decision inspite of staying a hometown merchandise (Hinton, WV), he wanted to attend Ohio Point out to participate in for the famous Woody Hayes nonetheless the elder Leftridge bowed to the pressure he gained from boosters to regional politicians all of whom desired him to continue to be house and engage in at WVU. In accordance to the doc even the local chapter of the NAACP inspired Leftridge to show up at the community college and be the a person who broke the color barrier at WVU. Dick Leftridge played for WVU from 1963-1965 for the duration of that time he place up some impressive stats he was the primary ground gainer and scorer every single of his a few a long time at WVU, in 1965 he was named Newbie Athlete of the calendar year by the West Virginia Sports writer Affiliation. Dick Leftridge was the initially African-American to engage in for the south staff in the North-South Shrine match in 1965, he was also the initially African-American named to the University of Pittsburgh All-Opponent team, and Dick Leftridge was also the very first African-American voted to the next groups all south conference.
A few of you older Pittsburgh Steelers enthusiasts may don’t forget Dick Leftridge as the team’s to start with spherical decide on in 1966 he was selected 3rd in general that yr, he was also a fourth round range of the AFL’s Miami Dolphins that identical calendar year. Unfortunately Dick Leftridge only played a person unspectacular season for the Steelers and quite a few lovers and media personnel labeled him a bust. This is where by the tale receives fascinating there are varied accounts as to why an athlete with so much assure lasted only a single year in the NFL? Dependent on whose variation you believe that some say Dick Leftridge, only failed to have the wish and self-discipline to make it, there are stories that say he basically “ate” his way out of the league by putting on also a great deal excess weight to be powerful as an elite jogging back, according to 1 short article on Mr. Leftridge created in the Hinton Every day News (7/19/66), the Steelers experienced a bodyweight clause place in his deal, the fine print examine that every single pound about 230 he introduced to camp would carry a $50 good, nevertheless in an job interview with a reporter of the Charleston Day-to-day News (9/26/85) Mr.Leftridge gave a distinctive account of the activities, he is quoted as indicating the “Steelers put in the papers that I weighed 300 lbs . when I claimed. Everyone thought that and they nonetheless do. I acknowledge I was lazy in some cases, but I was not fats. I weighed 242 kilos when I documented Hell all I know is how to enjoy soccer. That’s all I have at any time done. I was just a poor boy from Hinton (WV). How could people feel I might throw away a opportunity to make a million bucks? I might by no means transform my back again on that”.
Controversy seemed to abide by Leftridge from WVU by way of his brief pro profession he was dismissed from college in the middle of the semester of his senior calendar year a handful of days following he performed his last collegiate sport and his eligibility was finished, in 1976 he would return to faculty to entire his diploma. The more youthful Leftridge is also rapid to place out that his dad was no saint he wrestled with his possess demons after his soccer job ultimately finished. He shared specifics of his father’s checkered past this involved time expended in Detroit functioning in the automotive business, and producing questionable choices to get associated in the drug match as a supplier both of those in Detroit and upon his return to his hometown, as a result of getting on the mistaken facet of the regulation, Mr. Leftridge was sentenced to a 5 12 months stint in federal jail (1987). In accordance to his son while the elder Leftridge sat in prison there were a number of alleged verbal, mental and bodily harassment of the loved ones on the streets and areas of employment.
He also shared stories of his irritation in getting his dad’s story explained to and published. “I’ve contacted a great deal of persons, primarily the African-American stars I see and listen to in the media and been given little to no fascination, I’m not confident if the tale is much too controversial or what? He is also faced an uphill fight in having WVU to effectively admit his father’s achievements and historic importance for the Mountaineers. According to Richard JR. the college did not actually admit his achievements until eventually his demise and even then the faculty just revealed a limited blurb, to this day he still has not been inducted into their Hall of Fame. Now the critics will argue that staying inducted need to not be based mostly on race as a standards for variety, and you ought to be judged strictly on athletic achievements , on the flip aspect supporters can place out his stats and some of his awards (pointed out earlier) and in this situation his becoming the very first African-American player at WVU, all through a time of tumultuous unrest (Civil Legal rights Period) in this country’s historical past, need to be taken into consideration alongside his on area performance, he was and nevertheless is the educational institutions optimum at any time NFL draft pick. Does Dick Leftridge deserve to be inducted in the WVU Hall of fame? I will allow you make a decision. In my humble feeling I feel the story of Dick Leftridge is one of intrigue, mystique and historic importance and a person that needs even further exploration, if any of you would like to support the younger Leftridge on his journey to encourage his dads tale (he can be attained at [email protected]), he would be really gracious, he is not seeking fame and fortune from this tale, just a probability to share the legacy of a overlooked Pioneer.