DES MOINES, Iowa — A former star quarterback, known for his athletic and academic talent, at Drake University will have his story told in a new documentary on Iowa PBS later this month.
A lot of Iowans remember Johnny Bright as the star Bulldogs quarterback from the late 1940s to early 1950s. He was a favorite and a top pulling player for the Heisman Trophy in 1951. However, nationally, Bright is remembered as the victim of a viscous, racially motivated attack during a game against Oklahoma A&M, now known as Oklahoma State University.
During an early offensive play in the 1951 game an OSU lineman charged Bright, who did not posses the ball, and punched him in the face. The impact of the punch broke Bright’s jaw.
Despite the injury, Bright later became a professional football player in the Canadian Football League. He was named one of the most successful players in the league and eventually was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame in 1970.
Drake University named their football field the Johnny Bright Field in 2006 and recently opened the John Dee Bright College in 2020 in his honor.
Craig Owens, dean of John Dee Bright College, said most people only know Bright as a football player, but there was much more to him than that.
“He stands at Drake today as an example of grit, resilience, a high caliber of teamwork and all around excellence as a student and athlete,” Owens said.
A new documentary ‘The Bright Path: The Johnny Bright Story’ tells Bright’s life story from where he grew up to his time as an educator and mentor in Canada after finishing his football career.
The documentary will premier on Iowa PBS at 9 p.m. on Monday October 24.