MANHATTAN, Kan. — Veryl Switzer, the trailblazing former Green Bay Packers halfback who traded a career in the NFL for service as a lieutenant in the Air Force, died Saturday. He was 89.
Before his professional career, Switzer starred on the gridiron and in track and field at Kansas State before returning as an administrator. Citing his family, the school announced his death in a statement Sunday. Additional details weren’t provided.
“Veryl was one of the most influential and impactful K-Staters in our lifetime and helped pave the way for so many others to follow in his footsteps,” Wildcats athletic director Gene Taylor said of the first Black scholarship player to graduate from the land-grant institution. “He will be forever remember as a true trailblazer.”
Switzer was an All-American for the Wildcats for three straight seasons, leading the team in rushing in 1952 and 1953, and was selected fourth overall by the Packers in the 1954 NFL draft.
Switzer led the NFL in punt return average during his rookie season, then stepped away from the NFL after 24 games for a stint in the military. He served in the Air Force from 1956 to ’58 before spending two more years playing football in Canada.
Switzer spent a decade working at the Chicago Board of Education before returning to Kansas State, where he developed the school’s first university-wide student minority program. Many programs that exist today were began by Switzer, such as Ebony Theater, United Black Voices, Hispanic advocacy groups and Black Student Union.
Switzer, who earned his master’s in education from Kansas State in 1974, was a charter member of the school’s athletics hall of fame in 1990. He was placed in the school’s football ring of honor in 2002.