1966 World Cup Team Where Are They Now The Story of Dick Leftridge – A Forgotten Pioneer Or Simply Ignored

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The Story of Dick Leftridge – A Forgotten Pioneer Or Simply Ignored

On a quick show of hands, how many of you have ever heard of Dick Leftridge before today? I must confess that I had also never heard of Mr. Leftridge until recently when I was contacted by his son Jack Richard Leftridge Jr. The younger namesake is trying to have his father’s name and achievements remembered and properly recognized in the history books. The timing of this move couldn’t have come at a better time with the highly anticipated release of Disney’s “The Express” set to hit theaters. The Express is based on the life of the late Syracuse great Ernie Davis, who was the first African-American football player to win the Heisman (1961).

Like Mr. Davis, all reports point to the fact that Dick Leftridge was a trailblazer in his own right, according to my research and a synopsis from his son, Dick Leftridge was the first African-American to receive a football scholarship to play for a major college in the South after In 1962, he signed a contract with West Virginia University, which at the time was playing in the Southern Conference under Mason Dixon. The recruitment and signing of Dick Leftridge, accompanied by the subsequent signing of another black player, Roger Alford, represented a shift in the culture at the university. According to Richard Leftridge Jr. was not WVU his father’s first choice, despite being a hometown (Hinton, WV) product, he wanted to attend Ohio State and play for the legendary Woody Hayes; however, the elder Leftridge bowed to the pressure he received from boosters for local politicians, all of whom wanted him to stay home and play at WVU. According to the document, the local NAACP chapter even encouraged Leftridge to attend the local university and be the one to break the color barrier at WVU. Dick Leftridge played for WVU from 1963-1965, during which time he put up impressive statistics, leading player and scorer each of his three years at WVU, in 1965 he was named the West Virginia Sports Writer’s Amateur Athlete of the Year. Association. Dick Leftridge was the first African-American to play for the South team in the 1965 North-South Shrine Game, he was also the first African-American named to the University of Pittsburgh All-Opponent team, and Dick Leftridge was also the first. African-American voted second team all-conference in the South.

Some of you older Pittsburgh Steelers fans may remember Dick Leftridge as the team’s first round pick in 1966, selected third overall that year and also a fourth round pick of the AFL’s Miami Dolphins that same year. Unfortunately, Dick Leftridge only played one unremarkable season with the Steelers and was labeled a bust by many fans and media personnel. This is where the story gets interesting; are there different reports as to why an athlete with so much promise only lasted one season in the NFL? Depending on whose version you believe, some say that Dick Leftridge just didn’t have the desire and discipline to do it, there are stories that say he simply “ate” his way out of the league by putting on too much weight to be effective. elite running back, according to one article about Mr. Leftridge written in the Hinton Daily News (7/19/66), the Steelers had a weight clause in their contract, the fine print was that every pound over 230 that Camp brought would be fined $50, however, in an interview with a Charleston Daily News reporter (9/26/85), Mr. Leftridge gave a different account of events, he is quoted as saying “The Steelers put in the paper that I weighed 300 pounds when I reported. Everyone believed it and still believes it. I admit I was lazy at times, but I wasn’t fat. I weighed 242 pounds when I signed up; hell all i know is how to play football That’s all I once did. I was just a poor boy from Hinton, WV. How could people think I threw away how to make a million dollars? I would never turn my back on that.”

Controversy seemed to follow Leftridge from WVU during his short pro career, he was dismissed from the school midway through his senior year, days after he played his final collegiate game, and his eligibility was complete, returning to school in 1976 to completed his degree. The younger Leftridge is also quick to point out that his dad was no saint; once his football career ended for good, he wrestled with his own demons. He shared details about his father’s checkered past, including his time in Detroit working in the auto industry and making questionable decisions to get involved in the drug game as a dealer both in Detroit and after returning to his hometown as a result of being on the wrong side Act, Mr. Leftridge was sentenced to five years in federal prison (1987). According to his son, while the elder Leftridge was in prison, there was a series of alleged verbal, mental and physical harassment of the family on the streets and at places of employment.

He also shared stories of his frustration with his father’s story being told and published. “I’ve contacted a lot of people, especially African-American celebrities that I see and hear about in the media, and I’ve had little to no interest, not sure if the story is too controversial or what? He also faces an uphill battle to get WVU to properly recognize his father’s accomplishments and historical significance to the climber. According to Richard Jr., the school did not recognize his accomplishments until after his death, and even then the school only released a brief message, and to this day he has not been inducted into their Hall of Fame. Now critics will argue that induction should not be based on race as a selection criteria and should be judged strictly on athletic achievements, on the other hand supporters can point to his stats and some of his accolades (mentioned earlier) and in this case, the fact that he was the first African-American player at WVU during a time of tumultuous unrest (the civil rights) in the history of this country, should be considered. Along with his performance on the field, he was and still is the top pick in the NFL draft of any school. He deserves Dick Leftridg e be inducted into the WVU Hall of Fame? I’ll let you decide. In my humble opinion, I think the story of Dick Leftridge is one of intrigue, mystique, and historical significance and deserves further investigation if any of you would like to help the younger Leftridge on his journey to promote his fathers story (he can be contacted at [email protected] yahoo.com), would be very kind, he is not looking for fame and fortune in this story, just a chance to share the legacy of a forgotten Pioneer.

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