Honoring a legend, both on and off the gridiron

Honoring John B. Wooten, a legend both on and off the gridiron

Local artist Wren Prather-Stroud was recently commissioned to create a sculpture honoring Carlsbad High alum John B. Wooten, 86, the former star offensive guard and lifelong Civil Rights trailblazer who played nine NFL seasons beginning in 1959, mostly with the Cleveland Browns.

City of Carlsbad representatives recently visited Prather-Stroud, where they said they were impressed by the artist’s efforts so far. On social media, the city thanked local sponsors who made this project possible.

The sculpture is also meant to honor Wooten’s actions off the field.  Graduating from Carlsbad High shortly after it desegregated, Wooten has been involved in Civil Rights efforts throughout his life. He was part of the delegation when Martin Luther King Jr. met with President Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965, city officials noted.

In college, Wooten became only the second Black football player at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and one of the first to earn All-American honors as a lineman. In the NFL, he was a two-time All-Pro who participated in two Pro Bowls. During the late sixties, he was among the powerful athletes of the time making their voices heard on civil rights issues, alongside Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell and Browns teammate Jim Brown, according to a 2021 report in Texas Monthly).

“In July 1968, Wooten was placed on waivers by the Browns after he publicly expressed displeasure with Black players being excluded from an offseason team golf outing,” the report added.

After retiring as a player, he was a trailblazing front office executive in the NFL for several decades. In 2003, he cofounded the Fritz Pollard Alliance to push for equal employment opportunities for people of color in NFL executive and coaching roles.