Most Influential Athlete of  All-Time

African-Americans have been a huge influence in sports history for decades and continue to do so today. Many athletes over the years have proven and shown their accomplishments and greatness. Most were the first to do but surely are not the last. As we continue to embrace our capabilities, let’s remember those who paved the way for us to go in the right direction.

First, Ernie Davis was a college football player for Syracuse University from 1959-1961. Davis was the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy in 1961 and was the first pick in the 1962 NFL draft, where he was selected by who was then the Washington Redskins. Sadly Davis never got the chance to play in the professional league because that same year he was diagnosed with leukemia and died shortly after at 23 years old.

Second, Betty Chapman was a softball player for Illinois State Normal University which is now Illinois State, in 1949. Chapman was the first African-American to play in the softball professional league in 1951.

Next, Alice Coachman Davis was an athlete who specialized in the high jump. Davis made history by being the first Black person in any country to win a gold medal in the 1948 Olympics in London. Coachman jumped a record-breaking height of 5 feet and 6 and ⅛ inches in the high jump. Her journey to that point was not easy but with dedication and determination Coachman made one of the most remarkable accomplishments in history. Since Coachman was not allowed to train with the men she decided to take matters into her own hands. She developed her training using old equipment and training barefoot on dirt roads to improve her high jumps. While in high school it was the boys’ track coach who saw her talent and helped her develop it. This allowed her to get noticed by the athletic department of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Coachman was offered a scholarship in 1939 at the age of 16. She broke high jump records at high school and collegiate levels. She went on and became national champion in the 50 and 100-meter relays. After being the first African-American woman to win a gold medal, Coachman was approached by Coca-Cola in 1952 to become a spokesperson making her the first African-American to earn an endorsement deal.

These greats have proven that you can do anything you put your mind to as long as you have a strong will, dedication, and determination.

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