Who was the First Black Punter in the NFL?
Greg Coleman is a name that people should be familiar with who follows the NFL. Coleman is known for being the first Black punter in the NFL.
Most NFL players in the league who are punters are not Black. There has certainly been a shortage of Black punters/kickers, but Coleman is tabbed as the one who opened the door for others.
The story on how Greg Coleman made it to the NFL as a punter
Coleman attended Florida A&M University where he was a standout on the football team. He served as the team’s kicker and punter. Coleman played at FAMU from 1972 to 1975. To this day, Coleman is still one of the best kickers in FAMU history. He was inducted into the Florida A&M Football Hall of Fame and the State of Florida Track and Field Hall of Fame. When Coleman was in college, there weren’t any Black kickers playing in the NFL. He wanted to do something about that.
In 1976, he made history. The Cincinnati Bengals decided to take a shot on Coleman and drafted him in the NFL draft’s 14th round. Coleman did what many didn’t think was possible. He was a Black punter in the NFL, something that people did not see before.
Though the Bengals drafted him, Coleman never played a single game with them. He started his career with the Cleveland Browns in 1977. At the age of 23, Coleman made his NFL debut with the Browns. He only spent one season in Cleveland and joined the Minnesota Vikings after. Coleman spent the majority of his career playing for the Vikings. He played 10 seasons with the Vikings and spent his final season with the Washington Football Team.
Greg Coleman paving the way for Black punters/kickers in the NFL
There haven’t been many Black punters/kickers in years past, but there have been a few that have made it to the league, and Coleman played a big part in giving them an opportunity to play in the NFL. When Coleman made it to the NFL, that inspired other players that looked like him and played the same position, to try and make it to the league. There are Black punters/kickers out there who are good at that.
Reggie Roby entered the league several years after Coleman. Now the NFL had multiple Black punters in the league at the same time. Roby had a lot of success in the league as he played in three Pro Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro. Coleman and Roby let the NFL know that Black players can play every position on the football field and know how to excel.
There are currently no Black punters/kickers in the NFL
As of 2020, no Black punters/kickers are playing in the NFL. The last player to do so was Marquette King. King played in the league from 2012 to 2018 with the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos. He spent the majority of his career playing for the Raiders. King was very familiar with Coleman and Roby’s careers and wanted to have success as they did.
The Broncos released King in 2018, and that was the last NFL team he played for. In 2020 he joined the St. Louis Battlehawks of the XFL, and he led the league in punting yards. Though he’s not in the NFL right now, King is still playing and competing at a high level. Greg Coleman helped pave the way for players like King, and King is looking to do the same for the younger players.