“Still Running” by Nathaniel Northington
Football (American), College, Kentucky, autobiography, memoir
September 30, 2014
3 1/2 of 5 stars (good)
Many African-American players who broke color barriers for their particular sport or team are well known to many sports fans. Nate Northington was one of these pioneers, becoming the first African-American football player in the Southeast Conference. He and his friend Greg Page were recruited by Kentucky at the same time and on September 30, 1967, Northington became the first African-American player to appear in a Southeast Conference game. It was very bittersweet for him, however, because Page died the previous night due to complications from a neck injury suffered 36 days earlier in practice.
Northington writes about his friend with a lot of compassion. It is readily apparent to the reader that he has never fully gotten over this tragedy in his life. He never forgets his friend – taking it to the extent that when he is honored by Kentucky for this achievement, he would not accept the accolades unless Page was recognized as well. He doesn’t go into details about Page’s injury or death because he did not witness the accident in practice.
Despite this tragedy and his subsequent departure from Kentucky because he felt the school wasn’t doing enough to continue integrating the program, Northington tells his story in a refreshing upbeat manner. He never holds grudges or complains about his treatment as an African-American in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He instead concentrates on the good fortune he had in that the integrated teams and neighborhood in which he played and lived were harmonious.
That, along with his faith, is the continual theme of Norhington as he takes the reader through his athletic career in high school, where he was a three sport star (football, basketball, baseball) as well as Kentucky and Western Kentucky. He doesn’t talk much about his personal life after college, but enough to see that he lived a fulfilling life after football. While the book is very typical of most sports autobiographies in format and content, it is an interesting one that readers who want to learn about this pioneer of integration in college football will want to pick up.
Did I skim?
Pace of the book:
It moves along quite well, with Northington not spending too much time on any one topic. That was good for me while reading the book as I was able to follow his story quite well. The only topic in which he spent a great deal of time was understandably the death of Greg Page.
Do I recommend?
I believe that readers will enjoy this book as I found it different than other books, whether biographical or historical, on the integration of a sport or team. Norhthington’s positive outlook made it a good read.
Book Format Read: