Linebacker Courtney Love, one of Kentucky's team captains, walks off the field with honorary team captain Nate Northington after the coin toss before the first half of an NCAA college football game against Eastern Michigan Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky honored Northington today, 50 years after signing him as the first African-American to play football in the SEC. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)
Nate Northington never stopped smiling as Kentucky honored the 50th anniversary of his Wildcats debut that broke the Southeastern Conference's color line in football.
The Louisville native signed with Kentucky in 1966 and made the varsity the next season, officially debuting on Sept. 23, 1967 against Indiana. Northington became the first African-American to play in an SEC game on Sept. 30 against Mississippi.
Northington and teammates Greg Page _ who also signed with Kentucky in '66 but died the night before Northington's debut from a neck injury sustained in practice earlier that summer _ Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg were the SEC's first four black players. A statue honoring the foursome was unveiled last fall in front of the Wildcats' training complex.
The accolades continued Saturday for Northington, 69.
An honorary captain for the Wildcats' game against Eastern Michigan, the former defensive back received a plaque from the city declaring it Nate Northington Day. Kentucky student-athletes also thanked him for the impact he made.
Kentucky gave Northington a game ball after its 24-20 win over the Eagles.


The SEC has recognized the event with a one-minute video that is airing during every league game on CBS and ESPN networks. Titled "Together, It Just Means More," the video includes a tribute to Northington and Vanderbilt's Perry Wallace. who broke the SEC men's basketball color barrier that same year.


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