by PAUL BICKLEY
A documentary film about George Taliaferro, the Indiana University football legend, activist, professor, administrator, and philanthropist, is currently being co-produced by Bloomington creative agency Blueline and the Big Ten Network (BTN).
The B1G Story: George Taliaferro will follow Taliaferro from his 1927 birth in Gary, Indiana, through his death in 2018, focusing on his IU and NFL careers and his life in Bloomington. It will air on the Big Ten Network multiple times beginning in June.
The three-time All-American led the 1945 Hoosiers to the school’s only undefeated Big Ten football championship. The first African American drafted by the NFL, Taliaferro is the only player in league history to have played seven positions.
“George was a hell of an athlete,” says Kevin Weaver, 34, Blueline’s co- owner and co-executive creative director. “But I want people to see who he was beyond the athlete.”
As an African American in Bloomington in the 1940s, Taliaferro couldn’t live in a dormitory, sit in the front of classrooms, or eat in most restaurants. With the assistance of then-IU President Herman B Wells, Taliaferro helped change all that, in part by integrating local businesses under the veiled threat of university boycotts. Later, as an IU administrator, Taliaferro helped develop the university’s first Affirmative Action plan.
“And George gave to everyone around him,” Weaver adds. He chaired the board of the Children’s Organ Transplant Association for several years and helped found the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington. “His daughters say he was always mentoring someone.”
The film’s on-camera interviewees include all four of Taliaferro’s daughters, as well as Taliaferro mentees, and former IU athletes Quinn Buckner and Anthony Thompson.
“The documentary has been slowly percolating for a long time,” says Weaver, who started thinking about a Taliaferro film after Blueline produced a commercial featuring Taliaferro for IU Athletics in 2015. When Weaver asked BTN if they had created anything about Taliaferro, they asked him to pitch an idea and hired Blueline to produce the film.
“We love telling stories and have a big passion for documentaries,” Weaver says. “And this is a story that should be told.”