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2010 Black History Month Feature - John Mosley
John Mosley's Athletic Days at Colorado State Reflect Different Times
Many fans of Colorado State University know of John Mosley and his
ground-breaking success as the first black player in modern football history within
the state of Colorado. However, many are still unaware of what he faced at CSU and
in the city of Fort Collins during his four years at Colorado State. We first
interviewed Lt. Col. Mosley on January 23, 2008 for a Black History Month feature
and this time we have expanded upon that interview along with other historical notes.

In the fall of 1939, John W. Mosley, a National Merit Scholarship recipient from
Denver's Manuel Training High School decided to attend Colorado State College of
Agriculture and Mechanic Arts to learn to be a veterinarian. The 18-year-old freshman
followed his boyhood friend Charles Cousins to Fort Collins where the two men
joined seven other black students at CSC. While in high school, Mosley was an
accomplished football player and wrestler, so he decided to try out for the Aggie
freshman football team.

Cousins and the other students all told Mosley that he should not go out for football
since there were no other black students on the team in the predominantly white
school. Mosley saw no reason not to try out and he made the freshman team of 1939.
Although he was not the first black freshman football player, it was rare to see any
player who was not white on any football team at CSC.

In 1940, Mosley was a sophomore and again he tried out for the football team, but
this time as a varsity athlete. Not since 1906 had a black student played any varsity
sport at Colorado State or any other school in Colorado. Mosley had great athletic
talent and his coach, Harry W. Hughes, recognised that no matter what the color of
his skin was that any player could make his team. The story was different on the
practice filed though when many players, "especially those from the Western Slope of
Colorado" Mosley said, did not approve of his playing on the team.

On one occasion, Mosley was knocked out cold by a hit from one of his own
teammates, which prompted his friend Charles Cousins to exclaim, "I told you not to
go out for football. See what happened?" However, Mosley's calm personality and
exceptional athletic ability on the field allowed him to gain the trust of his teammates,
especially Lewis "Dude" Dent, who became Mosley's best friend on the team.
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John W. Mosley made it to Colorado State College of
A&M.A in 1939 not because of his athletic ability, but
for his academic quality. He received a National Merit
Scholarship from Denver Manuel High School and
decided to try out for football and wrestling after his
arrival on the CSC campus.
Needless to say, Mosley was not accepted very well at other area schools
when he played against them in 1940. Since he was the first black athlete in
the Skyline Conference, just as Jackie Robinson was the first in Major League
Baseball, John Mosley faced the same kind of treatment from opposing
players. In his 2008 interview, Mosley stated that on several occasions
opposing players would try to bait him into fighting by taking cheap shots at
him. They figured if Mosley responded with fights, he could be kicked out of
the league. Thanks to Mosley's teammate, Dude Dent, he would "get in the
opposing player's face to prevent the fight." Other Aggie players followed
Dent's lead, but Mosley stated that Dent became a fast friend of his and a
team leader as well. Mosley would respond to the cheap hit with a "clean and
legal hit" of his own on the next play.

Game programs from 1940 list Mosley as a "back", but he played a number
of positions on Harry Hughes' single wing offense teams. During his
three-year career Mosley wore uniform number 14, he is also listed as
scoring touchdowns in more than one game. However, Mosley's friend and
teammate Dude Dent outscored the entire Aggie team during Mosley's career
which earned Dent an all-conference selection.

John Mosley was not the only player on the field in Fort Collins that turned
heads because of his race or appearance. In 1940, Chester Maeda transferred
to Colorado State from a junior college in California. What made people turn
heads was that Maeda was of Japanese descent at a time when tensions with
Japan and the United States reached an all-time high before the Pear Harbor
bombings. Again, it was Harry Hughes who saw no reason that a talented
quarterback like Maeda should not be able to play.

Also in 1940, John Mosley became the first black athlete in a sport other than
football at Colorado State. When he played football, he told assistant coach
Hans Wagner that he wrestled at Manuel and he wanted to also participate in
the winter sport for the Aggies. Wagner, who saw eye-to-eye with Hughes,
knew that although he and his wrestling team had always attended the national
NCAA wrestling tournament, that the Aggies would not be allowed to
compete if they had a black athlete. He decided to allow Mosley the
opportunity to wrestle and forego the NCAA tournament, a decision agreed
upon by the entire team. Mosley earned conference honors in wrestling
during his four years at Colorado State.

One story about John Mosley that has become legend occurred in 1940 when
the Aggies traveled to Salt Lake City to play the University of Utah. The night
before the game, Hughes and his coaches took the team to the movies. Before
the show started, Mosley was informed he had to sit in the balcony because
he was black, so he informed Hughes he had to move. This angered Harry
Hughes and Hans Wagner so much that they stood up and announced the
Aggies were getting out of the theatre. This incident, recounted numerous
times over the years, stands as a learning experience for the players on the
team and also shows how Hughes and Wagner did not accept non-acceptance
of his player. Hughes believed that the team stays together, no matter what.
Breaking Down Racial Barriers on the Field and Mat
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Life at Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in
the early 1940s was an adjustment for most students who lived
away from home for the first time. However, life for one of the
few black students at Colorado State was what John Mosley called
his group, "The lonesome boys." In his 2008 interview, Mosley
stated, "Black students were not allowed to live on campus, instead
we all lived in a house on Meldrum." They lived together, shared
food together and eventually Mosley and Charles Cousins saved
enough money to buy a Model A Ford so they could visit their
family in Denver on weekends.

Mosley said, "We would drive our cars in tandem so that if one
broke down we would not be on foot and become a target for the
Fort Collins police." When they drove from Denver to Fort Collins
they frequently received a "police escort" by the Longmont police
from the moment they entered the city limits until they exited the
city limits.

In Fort Collins, Mosley and his friends had few places they could
eat a meal at without being told the restaurant would not serve
them or "Mexicans." Mosley said, "About the only place we could
eat at in town was the Poudre Valley Creamery for an ice cream

Despite his segregation on the CSC campus, John Mosley became
a very popular athlete and student. Although many fraternity boys
treated him the worst, he was popular enough to be named the
junior and senior class vice-president. In 1943, he was also named
the most valuable player of the football team.

As WWII heated up and every able bodied man became eligible for
the draft, Mosley wanted to fly airplanes in the Army Air Corp.
Locally, Army doctors said his heart was not strong enough for
flight training, but Mosley refused to believe that as an athlete. He
enrolled in private flight training and after graduation from CSC in
1943 enrolled into the Tuskegee Army Flight training program. He
stated that the HBO movie that depicted the famed Tuskegee
Airmen centered around his training period.

In 1945, Mosley became an Army pilot, but too late to enter into
battle. He was reassigned to fly bombers and served as a pilot in
the Korean War and Vietnam War as well. Lt. Col. John Mosley
retired in 1967 from the Army and today still lives in the Denver
area, one of the finest men to wear the green and gold at CSU.
The Lonesome Boys
Top: John Mosley football player in 1940 and 1941. John
Mosley as the first black wrestler in school history in 1942 with
his coach Hans Wagner. Dude Dent, in uniform #1, was one of
Mosley's best friends on the football team and he stood up for
Mosley when other teams tried to bait him into a fight. Chet
Maeda, in uniform #7, was of Japanese descent and played for
the Aggies during the early days of WWII.
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Two veteran coaches, Harry Hughes (left) and Hans Wagner, helped John
Mosley participate in athletics at Colorado State between 1939 and 1943
because of his athletic ability and not because of the color of his skin.
Mosley credited both men for helping break down colors barriers.
CSU Athletics
CSU Athletics
John Mosley learned to fly aircraft
before he became one of the
famed Tuskegee Airmen. Although
he did not fight in WWII, he was
one of the first black pilots of a
US bomber. He retired from the
Air Force in 1967 as a Lt. Col.
John Mosley received the Most Valuable Player award from teammate
Dude Dent for the 1942 football season.
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Milestones in
Black History at
Colorado State

October 7, 1905
Sub-Freshman Alfred
Johnson becomes the
first black athlete in
school history when he
is listed in the starting
lineup of the football
game against the
University of Denver.
DU coach Fowler
objects to Johnson
and refuses to play
against a team with a
black athlete. The
game is played
without Johnson, but
after a long public
debate, Aggie Coach
John McIntosh and
president Aylesworth
win their battle
against other schools
and Johnson remains
on the CAC football
team in 1905 and
1906. The Aggies and
other schools do not
allow another varsity
athlete that is black
until John Mosley in

1947/1948 Basketball

George Jones, an end
for the football team,
becomes the first
black basketball
player to receive a
letter. Jones is
credited as the first
black basketball
player in school
history as well. His
football teammate,
Eddie Hanna is also
on the basketball
team, but he does not
earn an Aggie "A"

Spring, 1954

Football and track
star Alex Burl is the
first black athlete in
school history to
receive the coveted
Nye Award. Given to
the top male athlete
since the 1920s, the
award is the highest
achievement in
athletics for any
athlete at CSU.

Fall, 1969

Jim Hillyer becomes
the first black
assistant football
coach in school
history. In his debut
season as a collegiate
coach, Hillyer is
assigned as the
offensive ends coach
in Mike Lude's final
season. Hillyer was a
native of Corpus
Christi, Texas and
spent several
successful seasons as
a high school coach in
Texas before he came
to Colorado State.
After being released
from Mike Lude's
staff following the
1969 season, Hillyer
returned to Texas
where in 1971 he was
named the head
football coach for one
season at Prairie View
A&M. He was never a
head coach again
after 1971.