Paul “Tank” Younger was the first player in the NFL from a Historically Black College, a graduate of Grambling State University, and the first African American to become a front office executive in the NFL.
Paul Younger started at Grambling at tackle, but it didn’t take young coach Eddie Robinson long to see that Younger’s size and quickness were better suited for the backfield. There, he earned the nickname “Tank” by running over everything that got in front of him. “Tank” was Grambling’s leader on offense and defense. A record-setting career in the backfield and at linebacker earned him a spot on the 1948 Pittsburgh Courier All-America team.
As a freshman, Younger led the nation in scoring with 25 touchdowns, scoring many times on an end-around play. In his junior year, he rushed for 1,207 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. Younger also completed 43 of 73 pass attempts, 11 for touchdowns. His career totals show 60 touchdowns, which, at the time, was a collegiate record. After his senior season, he was named Black College Football’s Player of the Year. After college, he wasn’t drafted to play professionally. He became a free agent, signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 1949, and opened the door to a new talent source, becoming the first player in the NFL from a Historically Black College.
Younger had a very successful NFL career with the Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers, earning Pro Bowl status five times. He was a member of the Rams’ renowned “Bull Elephant” backfield (Dan Towler, Dick Hoener) from 1949-57 and is the sixth-leading rusher in Rams’ history. He became the first black player to play in an NFL All-Star Game and, after his playing days, went on to become the League’s first black assistant general manager and front office executive. He served as a front-office scout and executive with the Rams until 1975 and Assistant General Manager with San Diego until 1987 and returned to the Rams before retiring in 1995. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
Paul Younger died in August of 2001 at the age of 73 and is survived by wife Lucille; son Howard; and two daughters, Harriette and Lucy.