Sun Devil Summer School: The Early Legends - Emerson HarveyPosted: Updated:
Through the first few days of Sun Devil Summer School we’ve thrown around the term “pioneer” in description of school’s early football superstars, but today’s subject embodies that better than any other.
Emerson Harvey began at Sacramento (Calif.) Community College before embarking on an historic tenure at Arizona State Teachers College. Despite playing two years of community college football, due to his race the likelihood of Harvey continuing at a university was slim. However, while working at a drug store in San Francisco, Harvey was visited by an Arizona State head coach and in the fall of 1937 he became the first African-American football player in school history.
Despite facing racial tension on and off the football field, Harvey persisted through challenges to establish himself as a spectacular student-athlete at ASTC. He earned a role at defensive end and as a blocker in the offensive backfield and obtained his degree in one-and-a-half years while spending the 1937 and ’38 seasons on the football squad.
Harvey is credited with helping racial integration in college football throughout Southwest, as many college teams from Texas had never played against African-American athletes on the gridiron before facing the Bulldogs.
After graduation, Harvey went on to teach industrial arts in the Phoenix high school system.
Though his name isn’t one that frequents the record books and stat logs, Harvey’s impact on Arizona State remains strong to this day.
Last season if you noticed a black-and-white circular No. 57 on ASU’s helmets, that was representative of Harvey’s jersey number to commemorate the 75th anniversary of football color barrier being broken at Arizona State.
"Mr. Harvey serves as a great example of succeeding in the face of adversity on the football field while exemplifying achievement inside the classroom with an A grade-point average," Kevin Miniefield, director of Sun Devil Letterwinners for the Sun Devil Club, said last summer when ASU announced it would be recognizing Harvey. "We as a department acknowledge our past and we also respect and honor it. This will be celebrated as part of our football heritage. This allows not only our football program, but our entire University to celebrate diversity as a strength of our institution. Current players also will benefit from gaining an understanding of who came before them and what they represent."