Kenny Washington changed the face of football forever, but I didn’t even know who he was until my fifth grade class and I were doing our Civil Rights project. He went through a lot for us, and without Kenny Washington who knows when the color barrier would have been broken.
Kenny Washington was an amazing athlete, who was number one in the country in offense his senior year in college. He was UCLA’s first All-American, and was the first African-American in the UCLA Hall of Fame. Despite his accomplishments, he didn't get on an NFL team because of the color of his skin.
Kenny Washington eventually got his chance to make history: he integrated football and signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 1946 – a whole year before Jackie Robinson integrated baseball. My class and I were shocked to find out that he’s not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame! Even if he didn't have a long career, it’s not fair to him or to anyone else who thinks he should be in the Hall of Fame. He did what not many have done – and was the first.
Mr. Washington overcame obstacles and racism to help change history. What makes a hero to me is somebody that has their mind set on what they want to do and they do it, and most of the time what they do helps other people, too. Kenny Washington did both and this is why he is a hero to me.
I know that Kenny Washington was persistent and his mind was always set on his goal. He paved the way for others, and my class and I want to pave the way for him to be in the Hall of Fame. As a fifth grader, it's amazing all he went through, but never really complained that much. If he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, it would send a message to kids like me that being brave and overcoming obstacles is a good thing.
Kaylin is a fifth grader from Johnson City, New York. His story is part of our Change.org Voices series, which highlights how people are using the platform to change their lives and the lives of those around them.