Tenth-ranked Penn State announced on Friday afternoon it will honor Wally Triplett and the 1948 Nittany Lions football team by wearing a helmet decal during Saturday’s Goodyear Cotton Bowl against No. 17 Memphis (12 p.m. on ESPN).
“I think it’s a great opportunity to obviously make sure our focus is on the Cotton Bowl and the great opponent that we have in Memphis, but also to be able to take some time and talk about history,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said during his media availability on Friday afternoon. “The history of our game of football, history of our specific universities, history of the Cotton Bowl and more importantly history of our country and how far we’ve come in a short period of time.”
Triplett was the first African-American to play in the Cotton Bowl Classic, catching a late touchdown pass and recording three tackles in Penn State’s 13-13 tie with Southern Methodist on Jan. 1, 1948, despite most public schools being segregated at the time. The Nittany Lions were actually forced to stay at a naval air station miles from the stadium in the days leading up to the game because the team hotel wouldn’t let Triplett and teammate Dennie Hoggard stay there.
Triplett, who died in November 2018 at the age of 92, was also one of the first African-Americans to be drafted and play in the NFL.
“(It’s) pretty amazing history,” Franklin said.
As for the decal, it prominently display’s Triplett’s initials, as well as the phrase “We Are” and the year “1948” at the top and bottom.
Photo via @PennStateFball on Twitter.