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Kentucky’s Nate Northington helps change college football forever

Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 10:19 PM EST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - In the 1960′s, the world was different, especially in the sport of college football. One man from Louisville Kentucky would change the sport forever, and that man was Nate Northington.

Nate Northington became the first Black player to sign with a school in the Southeastern Conference in December of 1965. He, along with his teammate Greg Page, were the first two Black athletes at the University of Kentucky. Northington says he believes it was his time to help bring change to America.

“You know just looking at the landscape at that time how Dr. King had come and the things that he had done to bring us together racially and everything in this country,” said Northington. “I just felt like that it was my opportunity that I could do something myself. I had seen it on TV, heard people talk about it. It was in the papers all the time, it’s in the media a lot. Now I have the opportunity to make a difference.”

Nate did make a difference on September 30, 1967, as he became the first Black player to play in an SEC game as the University of Kentucky took on Ole Miss. Nate would play the game with a heavy heart as he had just found out his teammate and best friend Greg Page passed away the day before, after suffering a broken neck in practice 38 days prior.

Northington would leave UK and transfer to Western Kentucky University, where he helped the Hilltoppers to the 1970 OVC Championship. Nate will forever be in the history books in college football, but there is one person he wants to make sure you never forget.

“I look at it and I am grateful that we were able to do what we did and thankful to the Lord that he had a plan for us. One thing that I promised Greg was anytime I talk about the story or whatever I am going to make sure people know who Greg Page was because he was just as important as I was. He didn’t get a chance to play as a varsity player but he was just as important as I was.”

Nate Northington went on to write a book titled “Still Running” where he recapped his time at both UK and WKU. That book led to a number of awards and recognition from across the country, including a statue of Nate and three other Black players who first integrated UK Football.

And standing right next to Nate on the statue on Kentucky’s campus is his best friend Greg Page.

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