Born June 5, 1920, Leesburg, Georgia, U.S.—died June 27, 1999, Cleveland, Ohio) African American gridiron football player who helped desegregate professional football in the 1940s during a career that earned him induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968. Motley’s bruising running style and exceptional blocking ability marked him as one of the sport’s greatest players.
Motley was a fullback and linebacker for both South Carolina State University (Orangeburg) and the University of Nevada (Reno) before playing for the Great Lakes Naval Training Station during World War II. His coach there was Paul Brown, who later was named the first coach of the Cleveland Browns in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). Motley signed with Cleveland as a fullback in 1946, breaking professional football’s 13-year colour barrier along with three other players.Motley, 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 metres) tall and weighing 238 pounds (108 kg), was the leading rusher in the four-year history of the AAFC, with 3,024 yards. The Cleveland Browns won every AAFC title and compiled a 47–4–3 regular-season record. Motley, who also contributed defensively, was an AAFC linebacker in each of his first three seasons.When the Browns joined the National Football League (NFL) in 1950, Motley led the league with 810 yards, an average of 5.8 yards per carry, and was named to the All-Pro team. The Browns won the NFL title in 1950 and advanced to the title game in each of the next three seasons. Motley missed the 1954 season because of a knee injury. He finished his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1955. In all, Motley totaled 4,720 rushing yards (a 5.7-yard average) and scored 31 touchdowns.Motley’s career has been overshadowed by later Browns fullback Jim Bown, who played in an era when the NFL attracted a broad national audience through television. However, Motley, using a similar combination of speed and power, was just as dominant during his career and was considered by many, including Coach Paul Brown, to have been the more complete player.