Penn State Football: 15 best running backs in Nittany Lions history

Saquon Barkley, Penn State Nittany Lions. (Photo by Evan Habeeb/Getty Images)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State Nittany Lions. (Photo by Evan Habeeb/Getty Images) /
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Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State Nittany Lions. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Wallace Triplett might be a name that rarely shows up on Penn State Football all-time rushing lists. That being said, his spot at No. 15 on this one is rightfully deserved thanks to the long-lasting legacy he left on the gridiron while at State College.

Triplett played his high school ball in Philadelphia suburb La Mott, Pennsylvania. Even though he played at a predominantly white high school, he earned a football scholarship to the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. However, once Miami learned that he wasn’t white, the formerly segregated university rescinded his scholarship offer.

Triplett would go on to play four years at Penn State after earning an academic scholarship to state in-state. Then in 1946, Penn State was to play Miami, but he and teammate Dennie Hoggard weren’t allowed to play in the game because of the color of their skin. Penn State decided to cancel their game with Miami after being told they could only play the game without their two black players.

This series of events eventually led to the famous “We are Penn State” phrase that has become synonymous with the football program. Triplett would play for the Nittany Lions through the 1948 NCAA season.

He became the first African-American to not only play in the Cotton Bowl Classic, but score a touchdown in the iconic bowl game. His touchdown catch led to a 13-13 tie with the SMU Mustangs down in Dallas.

Triplett would leave State College and play professionally with the Detroit Lions and the then-Chicago Cardinals. He was the third black player taken in the 1949 NFL Draft and the first of the trio to see action in an NFL game. Triplett might have been a good player for the Nittany Lions in the 1940s, but his legacy at Penn State as a trail blazer against segregation is what sets him apart and has him in the top 15.