A standout running back at UCLA, he rushed for a school record 1,914 yards during his time with the team; the record stood unbroken for more than three decades.
It would take four years for him to be be picked up by an NFL team. The Cleveland Rams finally made the move, insisting on integrating their team.
He was born Los Angeles, California.
The Chicago Bears' George Halas tried to sign him out of college, but he was blocked by NFL owners.