COLUMBIA — Norris Stevenson, the former Missouri football player who became the first black player to accept a football scholarship at the school, died Saturday in St. Louis of cancer.
“The Mizzou family lost a great, great man in Norris Stevenson," Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel said in a statement. "I had such a tremendous respect for everything he accomplished and how he carried himself. He was such a good man. I fully believe that he played a huge role in helping us get back on track in St. Louis, in terms of the perception of our program and what we’re about. He loved Mizzou. That was very clear to me, and we’re all very sad to have lost Norris. He’ll be remembered around here as a very important figure in our history.”
Stevenson, a fullback, accepted a football scholarship in 1957 and lettered from 1958 to 1960 under coach Dan Devine. He ended his career with 1,174 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns as well as three receiving touchdowns.
Missouri was 22-9-1 in the three years Stevenson played, and during his senior year in 1960 the Tigers won the Big Eight Conference championship, the team's last outright conference title. He also competed on the Missouri track and field team.
Stevenson was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 11th round of the 1961 NFL Draft but spent the subsequent season on the injured reserve list. He went on to play in the Canadian Football League for the Edmonton Eskimos and the British Columbia Lions.
Later, Stevenson coached track and field at Forest Park and Florissant Valley community colleges in St. Louis for nearly 30 years.
Stevenson was inducted into the Missouri Track and Field Association Hall of Fame in 1999 and into the University of Missouri Hall of Fame in 2001.