Triplett elected to Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame

January 12, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State football letterman Wally Triplett, who is synonymous with the creation of the "We Are...Penn State" mantra, is among the six honorees elected to the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame Class of 2018.

Triplett is the second Nittany Lion to be enshrined into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame, joining Lydell Mitchell, who was a member of the Class of 2005.

Wally Triplett

In 1948, the Cotton Bowl asked Penn State to leave its two black athletes at home. The Nittany Lions refused to play under these circumstances, the officials backed down, and, breaking the color line, Wally Triplett (number 12) and Dennie Hoggard (number 89) became the first African-American players to play in the Texas Cotton Bowl.

IMAGE: Penn State Sports Archives

The Class of 2018 will be inducted on the West concourse of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the second week in May. The ceremony is free and open to the public. The exact date is being finalized. Joining Triplett in the 11th Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame class are Texas A&M linebacker Quentin Coryatt, Arkansas/Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, USC head coach John Robinson, Texas running back Ricky Williams and Oklahoma strong safety Roy Williams.

Triplett was a tailback and linebacker for the Nittany Lions. He and end Dennie Hoggard became the first African-Americans to play in the Cotton Bowl game on Jan. 1, 1948. When asked to consider leaving Triplett and Hoggard at home due to a then-segregated Dallas, their teammates, led by team captain Steve Suhey, quickly responded in solidarity: "We are Penn State, there will be no meetings," referring to the 1946 Nittany Lion team having voted unanimously to cancel a game at then-segregated University of Miami.

A native of La Mott, Pennsylvania, Triplett grabbed the game-tying touchdown on a 6-yard reception in the third quarter as the Nittany Lions tied Doak Walker-led and third-ranked SMU, 13-13, in the 1948 Cotton Bowl. Triplett also played an outstanding defensive game. The 1947 Nittany Lions finished 9-0-1 and ranked No. 4 in the final AP poll, pitching six shutouts and allowing an average of just 2.8 points per game.

In the 1947 season, Triplett averaged 4.0 yards per carry (137 yards on 34 carries) and 28.2 yards per reception (141 yards on 5 receptions) with two touchdowns in nine regular-season games. Playing for Coach Bob Higgins, he tallied five total touchdowns in 1947.

As a senior in 1948, Triplett had 424 rushing yards, 90 receiving yards and six total touchdowns. He also averaged 26.8 yards per punt return (134 yards on 5 returns) and had three interception returns for 62 yards. Triplett ranks second in Penn State history with a 16.5 punt return average (280 yards on 17 returns).

After his Penn State career, Triplett became the first African-American player to be drafted by and play in the NFL when he was selected by the Detroit Lions. He played four seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and Chicago Cardinals, taking a two-year break to serve in the Korean War.


Last Updated November 08, 2018