V. Switzer, who left the NFL for military service, dies at the age of 89

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Veryl Switzer, the pioneering former Green Bay Packers halfback who swapped a career in the NFL for service as a lieutenant in the Air Force, died Saturday. He was 89.

Prior to his professional career, Switzer starred on the field and in athletics at Kansas State before returning as an administrator. Referring to his family, the school announced his death in a statement Sunday. No further information was provided.

“Veryl was one of the most influential and influential K-states of our lifetime and helped pave the way for so many others to follow in his footsteps,” said Wildcats athletic director Gene Taylor about the first black scholarship player to graduated from the country grant institution. “He will forever be remembered as a true pioneer.”

Switzer was an All-American for the Wildcats for three seasons in a row, leading the team in rushing in 1952 and 1953, and was selected as the fourth overall by the Packers in the 1954 NFL draft.

Switzer led the NFL in point-return averages over his rookie season, then stepped down from the NFL after 24 games for a stay in the military. I served in the Air Force from 1956 to ’58 before spending two more years playing football in Canada.

Switzer spent a decade working on the Chicago Board of Education before returning to Kansas State, where he developed the school’s first college-wide minority program for students. Many programs that exist today were started by Switzer, such as the Ebony Theater, United Black Voices, Spanish-speaking advocacy groups, and the Black Student Union.

Switzer, who received his master’s degree in education from Kansas State in 1974, was a charter member of the school’s athletics hall of fame in 1990. He was inducted into the school’s football ring of honor in 2002.

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