Born on June 11, 1930
Inducted On
July 17, 2023
Location Inducted
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Region Number
Fort Wayne Central
Fort Wayne Central
Drake University
Johnny Bright attended Fort Wayne Central High School where he lettered in football, basketball, and track & field. While attending Central, Bright led the football team to a Fort Wayne City title in 1945 as well as 2 state basketball final forms appearances. Bright initially accepted FB scholarship to Michigan State, but soon after transferred to Drake and accepted a track & field scholarship. He decided to also try-out for the football and basketball teams (he would end up lettering in all 3 sports at Drake). He was a mandatory redshirt his Freshman year. During his Sophomore season (1949) he passed for 975 yds and ran for 975 yards as a HB/QB. His junior seasonhe led the nation with 266.7 offensive yards per game and a total of 2400 yds. In 1951 (senior season), Bright was leading the nation in rushing and passing and was a Heisman Trophy Candidate before travelling to Stillwater, OK to play Oklahoma A&M in what was dubbed "The Johnny Bright Incident" in which Bright was knocked unconscious 3 times within the first 7 minutes of the game in racially motivated foul play. This would lead to Drake pulling out of the Missouri Valley Conference and and would provoke the NCAA to draft changes in illegal blocking, and the use of face masks for college football. Drake's record with Bright in the backfield: 19-6-2. Johnny Bright was a college All-American, college all star, and is in the College Football Hall of Fame. He was named the greatest football player in Drake history and was named by ESPN as the greatest player to wear the #43. The football field at Drake University is named in Bright's honor. In 2020, Drake University opened the John Dee Bright college on the Des Moines campus in honor of Mr. Bright. In 1952, Bright was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. As someone who would have been the Eagles' first black player, Bright was unsure of what to expect with the influx of southern players on the roster, so he elected to join the Calvary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League. He played Fullback and Linebacker for the stampeders from 1952-1954 and was traded to the Edmonton Eskimos in 1954. He would play in Edmonton until he retired in 1964. He led the Eskimos to 3 Grey Cup Titles in 1954, 1955, and 1956. He led the CFL in rushing 3 different season. In 1959, Bright won the CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award and was the first black athlete to be honored. At the time of his retirement in 1964, he was the CFL's all time rushing leader. At his retirement in 1964, Bright had 10,909 Career rushing yards and 70 TDS. He was elected to the CFL Hall of Fame in 1970. Bright was also a teacher, coach and administrator in Canada. He became a Canadian Citizen in 1962. Johnny Bright passed away in 1983 while going elective knee surgery.
Johnny was married Lois Marie Bright and had two children, Deanie and Kandis.