In 1966 Kentucky did something that no other university in the SEC had done before; UK made history by being the first team in the SEC to have its first ever black players join the UK football team.
On Sept. 22, 2016 the Wildcats would mirror those same sentiments in unveiling the newly sculpted statue that sat in front of the newly renovated Commonwealth Stadium. During the ceremony, UK honored its first black football players that took the field on Sept. 30, 1967.
Players Nate Northington, Greg Page, Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg were the first four players to break the color barrier by being the first black players added to UK’s football team or any football team in the SEC. As fate would have it, just one day before Nate Northington would play in his first football game, Greg Page, a UK defensive end died. He was tragically paralyzed during a practice and died six weeks later, never playing a down.
In the Kentucky vs. Mississippi game on Sept. 30, 1967. Northington would be the first black player to ever play a down of football in the SEC. That day Northington broke records on many different levels. Two years later, Hackett would make history books by being the SEC football’s first black team captain. In 1970 Hogg and Hackett would be the first black player to stay at the program though all four years of eligibility.
Not all the players would finish at UK’s football program, according to KentuckySports “After Page’s death, a grieving Northington left UK only weeks after he’d integrated SEC football and transferred to Western Kentucky”.
Although Hogg and Hackett would be the first players to stick with the program and fight though adversity it wasn’t without great pain. According to KentuckySports Hackett and Hogg stuck it out, but can tell stories of racism — players from one opponent promising throughout a game to “kill two n——” — that will make your stomach turn.
These players did something that has never done and did so while unknowingly open up the door for many black athletes to come.
Along with this historic moment, UK had guess speaker Nate Northington speak about his experience and how he influenced history at UK and around the world.