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Pitt Football

Trailblazing Bobby Grier to Serve As Pitt’s Honorary Captain Against Georgia Tech

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Pitt has featured the likes of Pitt greats in Dave Wannstedt and Teryl Austin as honorary captains so far this season, but the inclusion of Bobby Grier as the honorary captain against Georgia Tech is an example of a true trailblazer.

Grier, who played at Pitt from 1952-55 as a varsity running back and linebacker, broke the color barrier by becoming the first African American to ever play in the Sugar Bowl in the face of heavy opposition from the Georgia governor at the time. Grier took the field for Pitt in the 1956 Sugar Bowl, breaking the barrier in an incredibly important moment in racial desegregation in college athletics in the 1950s.

Georgia Tech would go on to win the game 7-0, but Grier’s 51 yards were a game-high, and more importantly, he helped pave the way for the integration of future African American student-athletes in both college football and major Bowl games.

Grier’s time in college football came before the prominence of the NFL and the ability to fund a family off an NFL contract. He would eventually join the U.S. Air Force and work as an administrator for the Community College of Allegheny County. Grier was active in the Pittsburgh area and still lives in the area with his children and grandchildren.

Grier began his athletic career at Masillion High School in Ohio before he enrolled at Pitt, making his mark as a standout football player and the only African-American football player on the team at the time. He was inducted into the Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame in 2019 and the Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame in 2021.

“Bobby Grier is a richly deserving honoree in our Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame,” Director of Athletics Heather Lyke said in a release last year. “While Bobby enjoyed a highly productive career on the field, the courage and strength he showed in desegregating the Sugar Bowl continues to resonate well beyond the game of football. Bobby is a tremendous source of pride for the University of Pittsburgh as he represents the very best of our institution.”

Pitt and Georgia Tech are scheduled to kick off at Acrisure Stadium at 8 p.m. Saturday night.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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