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Colorado Buffaloes Hall of Fame legend Frank Clarke dies at 84

The former wide receiver was a trailblazer in Boulder and the NFL.

University of Colorado

Former Colorado Buffaloes wide receiver Frank Clarke passed away early Thursday morning in McKinney, TX after suffering from a longterm illness, according to his son Gregory. He was 84.

Clarke, a member of CU’s Hall of Fame since 2008, is remembered as an original in a difficult era in modern history. He was the first African-American player in Colorado history — a decade before the civil rights act would become law. Clarke led Colorado in receiving both seasons he was in Boulder from 1955-56. He exited for the NFL as CU’s fifth all-time leading receiver.

Clarke was drafted by Cleveland Browns in the 1957 NFL Draft. He would spend his first three seasons with Paul Brown’s team before being selected in the 1960 expansion draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He would once again make history by becoming the first African-American to suit up for the legendary lone star franchise. Clarke’s final game in the NFL came in the 1967 Ice Bowl NFL Championship game between Vince Lombardi’s Packers and Tom Landry’s Cowboys. He ended his storied 11-year career in the NFL with 291 receptions, for 5426 yards and 50 touchdowns.

After his playing career, Clarke worked as sports anchor for WFAA-TV in Dallas and held down NFL reporting duties for CBS. He was the first African-American to take both positions. Over the past decade, Clarke took on a different role as a nanny, one he enjoyed for good company.

He is survived by two sons and a daughter.