Though you won’t hear his name mentioned nearly as frequently as Bear Bryant or Adolph Rupp, Nate Northington remains one of the most important figures from the University of Kentucky’s athletic history. True; he didn’t go on to have a decade-spanning, hall-of-fame career like Rupp or Bryant. In fact, he only played four games at UK. But the precedent that Northington set paved the way for generations of people who had previously been excluded from the Southeastern Conference. In 1967, Northington became the first black player to participate in an SEC football game.
In a column today for Jeffersonville, IN’s News and Tribune, Dale Moss sat down with Northington to get his take on his past, present, and future life. Though Northington’s been stacking up the accolades as of late (including a documentary from CBS last year, and a forthcoming statue at UK), he currently lives a quiet life out of the spotlight in one of Jeffersonville’s nicer neighborhoods. This humble style of living matches Northington’s view of his legacy:
“I never thought of myself as a pioneer, a hero,” he said. “I just wanted to play football.”
Though he discounts his role in history, the article provides a quality look at Northington’s life and the path that led to his status as a racial ground-breaker. You could read worse things this evening.