Home Features Black History NJ: Rosey Grier

Black History NJ: Rosey Grier

Former professional American football star Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier was born in Cuthbert, Georgia on July 14, 1932. Grier was named after then-presidential candidate Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Democratic nominee who ran against, and ultimately defeated in a landslide, former President Herbert Hoover. So far, he has managed to find success in two different career paths.

black history, rosey grier

Grier was one of 12 children, and by his teenage years, had moved to Roselle to attend Abraham Clark High School. He spent his youth staying active, and it was at Abraham Clark that his athletic talents became apparent; he was a top player in several high school football championship games. After graduating from high school in 1951, his athletic abilities enabled him to play on the defensive line at Penn State University, where he quickly became captain of the football team.

In 1955, following his graduation, Grier was drafted by the New York Giants. He was the 31st overall pick in the third round of the draft. He stayed with the Giants for seven seasons, where he helped lead the team to a National Football League Championship in 1956, followed by Eastern Conference Championships in 1958, 1959, 1961 and 1962. He also played in Pro Bowl games in both 1956 and 1960, and received the All-Pro title at defensive tackle several times.

The Giants traded Grier to the Los Angeles Rams in the summer of 1963. Alongside teammates Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Lamar Lundy, Grier was considered a member of the “Fearsome Foursome,” who comprised arguably one of the greatest defensive lines in football history. Grier only spent four seasons with the Rams, though, because in 1967, his career ended after he tore his Achilles tendon.

black history, rosey grier

Despite the injury, Grier didn’t stay out of the public’s eye for long; soon after his retirement from the NFL, he began hosting his own talk show, The Rosey Grier Show, which covered many of the community affairs of Los Angeles. He was a born entertainer and even accompanied comedian Bob Hope on his 1968 USO tour, “Operation Holly.”

Grier experienced a fruitful acting career and became one of the first former professional football stars to do so. He made guest appearances in nearly 70 different television shows and also acted in a number of feature films, such as The Desperate Mission, The Thing with Two Heads and Carter’s Army. He continued to act until the late 1990s and soon took to writing and working as an inspirational speaker. He also became a co-founder of the nonprofit organization, American Neighborhood Enterprises, which aids disadvantaged individuals in buying homes and receiving vocational training.

In 1974, Grier received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Penn State and was eventually named to the NCAA’s “List of the 100 Most Influential Student-Athletes” in honor of the NCAA’s 100-year anniversary. Grier was inducted into the New Jersey Sports Hall of Fame in 1997 and then into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, inductee class of 2016.