On the north side of Memorial Stadium, a white sheet covered a statue of George Taliaferro on the plaza that had recently been named for him. Attendees of the dedication ceremony arrived and were taken indoors due to the cold weather. They began mingling while waiting for the ceremony to begin.
“This statue means a lot, not only to me, but to the rest of the football team,” sophomore linebacker Cam Jones said. “Just having somebody that resembles us and everything that he’d been through, everything that he had to accomplish here being a student athlete at IU.”
As the ceremony began, IU President Michael McRobbie welcomed attendees. IU trustee William Quinn Buckner; Fred Glass, vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics; Anthony Thompson, senior associate athletic director for engagement and sports performance; IU head coach Tom Allen; and fifth-year senior linebacker Reakwon Jones were the speakers for the ceremony.
Allen spoke about Taliaferro in an Oct. 28 press conference, calling him a special man.
"My one regret when he passed was I never really got to know him as well as I wished I had," Allen said. "He was a guy that forged the way for our current guys, our current players that are African American.”
All four of Taliaferro’s daughters were present.
“When we were walking in, we saw it all covered up, and I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ It’s just been so much in the past year since he passed," Taliaferro’s daughter Terri Johnson said.
Taliaferro was from Gary, Indiana, and played football for IU during his time as a student from 1945-49. He helped desegregate both IU’s campus and the Bloomington community.
Taliaferro was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1949 but turned down the team and later went on to play for the New York Yanks, Dallas Texans, Baltimore Colts and Philadelphia Eagles. During his time as a professional football player, Taliaferro played seven different positions on the field.
“This sculpture became a learning process for me of who George was and the impact he had not only on IU football, but on the country,” artist Brian Hanlon said.
Hanlon, along with several others on IU’s campus, created the sculpture of Taliaferro. Hanlon said statues are interesting to him because they inspire and educate.
“If a piece of art can do more than decorate a landscape, then we’ve accomplished something great,” Hanlon said.