Legendary Alumnus Wally Triplett Addresses Players After Practice
It’s fair to say that Penn State was ahead of the times in many respects when it comes to racial integration. It elected a black student body president, Jesse Arnelle, in 1954 before Brown v. Board of Education was decided. It admitted its first black student in 1899, Calvin Waller, before most of its peer institutions allowed African Americans. Its athletics teams, too, were integrated before most other schools.
So it went, in 1946, when a 7-1 Penn State was faced with a challenge. Would it leave its black players home for the Cotton Bowl in Texas, as its opponent Southern Methodist University requested, or would it take its entire team into the deep south?
“We play all or we play none. We are Penn State. There will be no meetings,” team captain Steve Suhey is credited with saying, a part of Penn State lore.
One of those players was Wally Triplett, the first African-American starter and letter winner in Penn State history, and the player who scored the game-tying touchdown against the Mustangs in that historic match-up. Penn State’s current team received the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and talk with Triplett, who addressed the team yesterday after the non-travel scrimmage in Holuba Hall.
James Franklin elaborated on Triplett’s visit in his post-practice press conference.
“It’s obviously pretty cool, and it’s a shame that enough of our kids don’t know the story, so we went over the story in detail,” Franklin said. “We talked about it in meetings to give them some perspective I think because, like most of us, we’ve heard bits and pieces of the story, but not the whole story.”
Franklin continued by highlighting the significance of Triplett’s presence, not solely because of the story, but because his players could meet the man around which the story centered.
“To hear the story, and then see the man in front of you, is really cool,” Franklin said. “Him and his wife being here was special, and he had an opportunity to speak to the team. We have a lot of things that make Penn State really unique, and his story is one of the more special stories in our history.”
Cornerbacks Coach Terry Smith got to speak with Triplett one-on-one and shared the experience on Twitter after practice.
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