By Michael LeCompte
Every October the NFL celebrates Hispanic Heritage month. While spotlighting recent players and coaches, such as Tony Gonzalez and Ron Rivera the league did not have much history to hold up until recently, though. In 2000 a proud granddaughter donated the original player contract of Lou Molinet, the first Hispanic professional football player, to the Hall of Fame.
Ignacio “Lou” Molinet (1904-1976) was born in Cuba to Spanish parents. The Molinet’s eventually came to America and Lou attended Cornell University as a young man. Although he was a basketball and football star in college Lou dropped out of school and returned to Cuba after his sophomore year when his parents died unexpectedly.
Despite his brief collegiate athletic career Molinet nonetheless managed to impress a member of the Frankford Athletic Association of Philadelphia with his gridiron prowess and the club offered him a contract in 1927.
Molinet earned $50 per week for practicing and an additional $50 for every game he played. (Although a far cry from the current NFL minimum salary of $435,000, this was good money at the time-just two years prior to the Great Depression)
Football in the 1920’s was almost unrecognizable compared to the game we all love today. In that bygone era players routinely held multiple positions on the team. Molinet, at 5’11” and 195 pounds played fullback, halfback, and quarterback.
During the Frankford Yellow Jackets 1927 campaign Molinet rushed for 75 yards, passed for 35 more and scored a touchdown. (Very modest numbers by today’s standards, but they must be considered in the context of the game at that time)
After his one season of professional football Molinet enjoyed a career with the Kodak corporation. He lived a life, had a family, and was largely forgotten as an athlete, until his family brought his brief football career to the attention of the NFL.
Now, the game he loved can truly honor Lou Molinet, while celebrating those who have followed in his footsteps.