Nathaniel “Nate” Northington and the late Greg Page were the first Black athletes to integrate the NCAA’s Southeastern Conference and the first two Black football players signed by the University of Kentucky. Together, they opened the doors for the signing of other Black players for the team and the SEC overall.
Northington,born in 1947, and Page played high school football in Kentucky. Northington was a running back and defensive back from Louisville while Page was a defensive end from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. Although Northington’s quiet demeanor and Page’s outgoing personality could have led to clashes, the pair became close friends and hoped to shatter the SEC’s race barrier together.
But tragedy struck in the Wildcats’ sophomore season when Page was seriously injured and paralyzed after a practice. Page ultimately died from his injuries the day before Northington made his debut for the team. The game took place on Sept. 30, 1967 against Ole Miss in a losing effort. Northington and the rest of team struggled to focus on the game with Page’s death weighing on their minds.