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Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

History Lessons: Who is Jack Trice?

Jack TriceThe Oklahoma Sooners will meet Iowa State Saturday at the Cyclones’ Jack Trice Stadium. Trice was the first African-American athlete at Iowa State. He played football for the Cyclones in 1923, but that was short-lived.

The Cyclones traveled to Minneapolis to meet the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers on Oct. 6 that year. There was no integration in that day, and Trice was not allowed to lodge with his teammates, so he stayed at another hotel. He also was not allowed to eat it in the hotel’s dining room, so he dined in his room. After supper, he wrote a letter to himself:

“To Whom It May Concern: My thoughts just before the first real college game of my life: The honor of my race, family and self is at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do big things. I will. My whole body and soul are to be thrown recklessly about the field tomorrow. Every time the ball is snapped, I will be trying to do more than my part. On all defensive plays I must break through the opponents’ line and stop the play in their territory. Beware of mass interference. Fight low, with your eyes open and toward the play. Watch out for crossbucks and reverse end runs. Be on your toes every minute if you expect to make good. Jack”

After the game’s second play, Trice came to the sideline complaining of a sore shoulder. It was later discovered he had broken his collarbone. He insisted that he was okay and continued to play. He attempted to make a tackle in the third quarter by throwing a roll block thus knocking down two Minnesota players. When Trice tried to get to his feet, two Minnesota players trampled him as they headed downfield. The Gopher players stepped on his abdomen and chest. Trice staggered to the sideline and did not return to the game. He was taken to a Minneapolis hospital. The doctors declared him fit to return to Ames with his teammates on the train.

Two days later, he died from hemorrhaged lungs and internal bleeding throughout his abdomen caused by injuries from the game. Iowa State cancelled classes two days later for a memorial service. About 4,000 students and faculty members attended the service on Oct. 16, 1923. His casket was draped in cardinal and gold, Iowa State’s school colors.

Trice left behind a widow, Cora, who later remarried and never returned to Ames.

Iowa State has the only Football Bowl Subdivision institution named for an African-American. In 1984, the field was named Jack Trice Field, and in 1997, the stadium was named in his honor.