Iowa State honors life of Jack Trice
Trailblazing Cyclones player remains inspirational a century after his death
Jack Trice, Iowa State’s first African American athlete, played only two college football games for his school in 1923, but his story left a legacy that continues to educate and inspire 100 years later.
On October 6, 1923, Trice was alone in a Minnesota hotel room on the eve of the Cyclones’ game against the Golden Gophers. In a fateful letter that was found later, he shared his thoughts on the significance of his opportunity, writing “The honor of my race, family, and self are at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do big things. I will! My whole body and soul are to be thrown recklessly about on the field tomorrow.”
During the game, Trice suffered a broken collarbone but insisted he could continue to play. Upon returning to the field, he was forced to the ground and trampled by several Minnesota players and was taken to an area hospital. He was able to make the trip home with his teammates, but the internal injuries he suffered couldn’t be diagnosed or treated at the time, and Jack Trice died from his injuries the following day. He was 21 years old.
Trice’s story went largely untold until an Iowa State English professor introduced Jack Trice’s story to his class in 1973. That group of students started what turned into a 24-year effort to get the stadium renamed to honor Trice’s legacy. After generations of student-led activism and public debate, the Cyclones’ stadium was renamed Jack Trice Stadium in 1997. It remains the only Division I college football stadium named for an African American individual.
Recently, Nationwide joined Iowa State University, its alumni, and the community for a centennial commemoration of Jack Trice’s brief life and a game at the stadium that now bears his name.
On Saturday, October 7, 2023, the Iowa State Cyclones hosted the 2022 College Football Playoff finalist TCU Horned Frogs for the Jack Trice Legacy Game, presented by Nationwide. During Iowa State’s 27-14 victory in that primetime game, the Cyclones wore throwback uniforms inspired by those worn in the 1923 season. The “I will!” script taken from Trice’s handwritten letter was incorporated on the bumper of the helmets and the inside collar of the jerseys. Among the in-game tributes, Nationwide CEO and Iowa State alumnus Kirt Walker and ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard presented an official game jersey to Trice family representative George Trice during an on-field presentation.
“I remember first learning about Jack Trice as an Iowa State student, and his story has continued to influence me throughout my personal and professional life,” said Walker. “Jack Trice left a legacy that will continue to inform and inspire future generations well beyond Iowa State University.”
The weekend culminated a year-long commemoration that began in October 2022. Over that time, the university and community recognized Trice’s legacy through museum exhibitions, art installations, lecture series, street renaming, and other public events.
To learn more about Jack Trice’s story and commemoration, visit jacktrice100.com.