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It took until 2000, but meet the man credited as NFL’s first Hispanic player

A sign marks Hispanic Heritage Month during the New England Patriots NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Photo by Tom Szczerbowski
A sign marks Hispanic Heritage Month during the New England Patriots NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Photo by Tom Szczerbowski (Getty Images)

With both the start of Hispanic Heritage Month and the National Football League season converging this month, what better time to look back at the first known Hispanic player to play in the NFL?

For many years though, there was a different player credited with being the first Hispanic NFL player, according to ESPN.

Up until 2000, the first Hispanic NFL player was believed to be Jesse Rodriguez, a fullback/punter who made his debut in 1929 playing for the Buffalo Bisons.

But in 2000, a woman named Heidi Cadwell brought to the Pro Football Hall of Fame the NFL contract of her grandfather, Ignacio Molinet, which was dated in 1927.

After viewing the contract and conducting further research, the Pro Football Hall of Fame confirmed that Molinet played in the NFL in 1927, and thus, was the league’s first Hispanic player, not Rodriguez.

Born in Cuba in 1904, Molinet relocated to the United States and played football and basketball at Cornell.

In 1927, the Frankford Yellow Jackets, a team based in the Philadelphia area, offered him an NFL contract.

A fullback for the Yellow Jackets, Molinet played in nine games that season, but didn’t return to the team in 1928.

Still, his one and only season was good enough for him to etch his name in NFL history.

Even though Molinet’s career wasn’t known until 2000, his contract is currently on display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


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