COLUMBUS -- Jim Stoner was so inspired by the life of Charles Follis that he wrote a play about him.
On Wednesday, Stoner was at the Ohio Statehouse, hoping to inspire state lawmakers to move legislation aimed at drawing more attention to the nation's first documented black professional football player.
"When one examines Charles' life, one sees a life of extraordinary accomplishments that have been largely overlooked for more than a century," Stoner told members of the Ohio House's State and Local Government Committee.
Stoner offered proponent testimony on HB 229, which would designate Feb. 3 as Charles Follis Day, marking the 1879 birthday of the famed Wooster native and namesake of that community's high school football field.
A comparable bill moved through the Ohio House a year ago but stalled in the Ohio Senate.
Follis was the starting halfback for the former Shelby Blues, a professional football team in Richland County in the early 1900s.
He also was a graduate of Wooster High School, where he organized and served as captain of the school's football team, Stoner said, adding that Follis was nicknamed the "Black Cyclone for his tenacity on the gridiron."
Follis was befriended by a young Branch Rickey, the "man who broke the race barrier in modern sports by signing Jackie Robinson in 1947," Stoner said. "As a student of history, I have learned that there is always a reason amazing things happen, and heroes are born. Charles Follis from Wooster, Ohio, sparked a transition in this country that fostered acceptance."
Stoner wrote a play, titled "The Black Cyclone," that tells Follis' story.
Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for GateHouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.