Football Legend Who Integrated Texas Collegiate Football
Born in Denton, Abner Haynes –along with teammate Leon King—broke racial barriers by becoming the first African Americans to play college football in Texas, joining the University of North Texas (UNT) freshman team in 1956. Until then, Texas colleges allowed no players of color to represent their teams, and prohibited integrated teams from other parts of the nation from dressing their African American players against Texas teams.
Abner became a legendary football star. A two-time all-Missouri Valley Conference running back for UNT’s Eagles varsity team, in 1959 Abner ranked seventh nation wide in rushing, fifth in scoring, led UNT to the Sun Bowl, and was named an All-American by Time Magazine. In 1960, Abner was drafted to play pro football by the NFL’s Steelers but signed with the Dallas Texans (later renamed Kansas City Chiefs) of the American Football League (AFL). He continued as a decorated professional athlete, and was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
The early years of college football integration were hard. Abner and Leon were spat on, kicked, harassed and mocked during a freshman game at Navarro Junior College, causing their teammates to form a human shield around the two as they ran for the bus. As African American male students, they were not allowed to live on UNT campus or eat in campus dining halls. On road trips, when restaurants or hotels refused to serve Abner and Leon, the rest of the Eagles team refused service in solidarity.