George Taliaferro, a halfback, was the first African-American picked by an NFL team (Indiana). He was drafted in the thirteenth round by the Chicago Bears in 1949, but he chose to join with the AAFC's Los Angeles Dons. Another African-American, Fritz Pollard, Jr., had been selected by the Browns in the ninth round of the 1945 draft but was denied his right to play because there were no black players in the league at that time.
The first black player in the modern era was Willie Jeffers, who debuted with the Detroit Lions in 1955. Before then, all blacks playing pro football were slaves or veterans who had been granted freedom after the war ended. There had been several attempts to get black athletes into the game before then, but they always failed. The main reason was that most teams had no intention of letting them play; instead, they wanted their services as cheap labor. That changed in 1945, when the Cleveland Browns gave Fritz Pollard, one of the best runners in college football, a $10,000 contract and let him go to work for the money.
Pollard proved himself by running for 1,146 yards and nine touchdowns for a team that finished with a 4-4 record. He also returned kicks and punts. The next year, the Pittsburgh Steelers took him with their first pick (ninth overall).
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose Doug Williams 17th in the first round in 1978, he became the first black quarterback drafted in the first round. Following Williams' selection, there was a lull in the influx of black quarterbacks into the league. It took another five years before another black quarterback was drafted.
The first African American to play in the contemporary NFL was a UCLA running back. His life narrative is not well-known. Kenny Washington is unknown to both youngsters and adults. However, Kenny Washington was the National Football League's Jackie Robinson (NFL). When the NFL first began in the 1920s, there were just a few African Americans on the team.
Dan Marino, quarterback Dan Marino was chosen as the quarterback for the Los Angeles Express. Marino was the first player in USFL history to be officially picked. He refuses to sign it. Tim Spencer (Ohio State) signed with the Chicago Blitz on January 7, 1983, becoming the first selected player to sign with the USFL.
In 1992, Marino became the first pick in the NFL Draft when the Miami Dolphins took him with the 1st overall selection. The USFL had the 2nd and 3rd picks and chose Ron Jaworski from Texas A&M and Jack Crowe from North Carolina, respectively. Jaworski would play 11 seasons in Miami while Crowe played only one season with the New York Jets.
There have been over 100 players taken in the draft since its inception in 1979. The last active player who was drafted in the USFL/AFL Draft is Ron Stone, who was selected by the Sacramento Surge in the 1991 draft. He has not played professionally because of injuries. There are also several players who were drafted but never played in either league due to injuries or personal issues. These include Eric Lindros, Vladimir Yurzinov, Brian Kelly, Scott Studwell, and Todd Marinovich.
The USFL held their inaugural draft on November 19, 1979. Six quarterbacks were selected that year, including John Elway who went to both the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders.