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The Forgotten Football Star
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Story By: Brian Skowronski



  Originally Published on: 2/27/2014

Ground breaking legends like Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson that helped pave the way for African-American athletes in the United States will be forever cemented in sports history. But in our nations most popular sport of professional football, the first black player to ever receive a paycheck is often overlooked.

Charles "The Black Cyclone" Follis signed a contract with the Shelby Blues in 1902 after the team competed against his amateur Wooster squad and decided Follis needed to play for them after an impressive performance.

Follis also played catcher for the college of Wooster baseball team and would later sign a deal with the Cuban Giants, also becoming the first collegiate catcher to play in the negro leagues.

Follis would have his football career ended short due to injury and would pass away from pneumonia at just 31-years-old. Perhaps it was his short life-span or abruptly ended athletic careers, but Follis is also known as "The Forgotten Player", as he is seldom mentioned in history with greats like Robinson or Owens.

James Cosby of the Cosby Educational Heritage Center says that he has actually read articles that suggest Follis was the first paid football player of any color. Cosby also says that Follis should be admired for his perseverance both on the athletic field and in the classroom, giving African- Americans at that time something to strive for.

Cosby offers tours at the Heritage Center which includes artifacts from African- American history, including articles on Follis. Cosby can be reached to schedule an appointment at 419-755-8834.

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