University of Memphis plans ceremony to honor first Black player

Glenn Rogers Sr. integrated the Tigers team as a walk-on in 1968.

Glenn Rogers Sr. made history 50 years ago when he became the first Black player on the Memphis Tigers football team in the spring of 1968. Now the university is set to honor him when Memphis hosts Tulsa on Nov. 10, the Commercial Appeal reports.

Rogers initially joined the team as a tight end but was moved to defensive back. In the fall of 1969, Stan Davis joined the team and the pair made their debut as the first Black players to appear in a Memphis game. The team’s opponent was Ole Miss. During the game, racist chants were directed toward Rogers and Davis, according to a University of Memphis news release..

The Commercial Appeal reported that when Rogers initially joined the Tigers, his white teammates were not particularly welcoming but as time passed the players and coaches rarely uttered racial slurs. He graduated from Memphis with mixed feelings about how racism impacted his playing days.

The University of Memphis will honor its first Black football player, Glenn Rogers Sr., during an upcoming game against Tulsa. (AdobeStock)

Rogers said he looks back on his time with the Tigers and believes race was the reason his white teammates were often promoted while he was overlooked. Because of the pain he carried with him for many years because of this experience, Rogers did not attend many Memphis football games after he graduated.

Rogers would go on to coach for 14 years at Southside High School and later served as an educator, according to the news release. In 2000, he received the M Club Hall of Fame Billy J. Murphy Award for his contributions to the community. Memphis is now properly recognizing Rogers for being “a trailblazer for not only our football team, but the University,” said Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Laird Veatch.

“It’s a sense of pride that it’s going to occur. I know that it took a long time coming and the athletic director was real receptive to honoring me. I really appreciate that,” Rogers told the Commercial Appeal.

The football program will honor both Rogers and Davis during halftime of the team’s game against Tulsa at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium next month.

“His courage and determination helped pave the way for so many and his contributions to the community have been incredibly impactful,” Veatch said of Rogers. 

The university announced in the news release that during next month’s ceremony, Rogers will serve as honorary captain of the Tigers and his name and No. 26 will be painted on the field. 

Rogers is over the moon about being recognized for the mark he made.

“I am truly thankful to have received the news about being honored and recognized at the Nov. 10 home game versus Tulsa as the first African American to play football for Memphis,” Rogers said in the news release. 

“It’s been a long journey, but I’m grateful for God’s grace, Glenn Jr. and all parties involved in making this monumental ceremony happen for me while I’m still alive and in my right mind,” he added.

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