Hidden History: Johnny Bright’s story

Local News

The journey that changed football forever started with a player from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

As Kaitor Kay shows us, Johnny Bright endured brutal, racist attacks on the field and would end up securing protection for generations of future athletes.

A gridiron in Oklahoma… 1951

DEANIE BRIGHT-JOHNSON: “It’s like the racial injustice just comes to life”

A battleground that still haunts Deanie Bright-Johnson, nearly 70 years later.

Nightmares of her Dad… the best college football player in the country… with a broken jaw… and zero sympathy from the stands.

Johnny Bright… Drake University’s superstar… had been the first black player ever to step in this stadium.

On this visit, opponent Wilbanks Smith wanted to make sure he’d never come back.

A devastating blow to his exposed, unprotected face… moments later a second strike and then a third.

But before his team carried his limp body off the field, he launched a statement 61 yard touchdown pass.

Ready to be the face… that changed the safety of the game forever.

The NCAA would soon require all players in the league to wear face masks.

Making Bright’s impact on this global game undeniable.

MIKE BREVARD: “and then with the addition of the face mask, thanks to Johnny Bright, our game is much safer.”

Oklahoma State University gave the Bright Family a formal apology two decades after he passed away, almost 55 years after the incident.

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