"Forgotten Four" tells the story of the four men - Motley, Woody Strode, Kenny Washington and Bill Willis - who broke the color barrier in professional football in 1946, one year before Jackie Robinson made his historic debut in Major League Baseball.
Motley left Nevada in 1942 when he was inducted into the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was sent to the Great Lakes Naval Station just outside of Chicago where he played on the station football team, which was coached by future Pro Hall of Famer Paul Brown. In 1945, Brown signed on to coach the Cleveland Browns of the new All-American Football Conference, and gave Motley, then 26 years old, married with four children and working in a mill in his hometown, a chance to try out for his team.
Motley made the Cleveland squad, and in 1946, he, Browns teammate Willis and Washington and Strode, who were signed by the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League, broke the color line in modern professional football.
Motley played nine seasons of professional football, including eight with the Browns (1946-53) and one with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1955). He was the all-time rushing champion of the AAFC and led the National Football League in rushing in 1950. Called "the greatest fullback ever" by his coach Brown after a 1946 game, Motley amassed 4,720 rushing yards in his career and averaged a staggering 5.7 yards per carry, and played in the 1951 Pro Bowl. Motley was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his hometown of Canton, Ohio, in 1968, becoming the second African-American to earn the sport's highest honor.
Even 40 years after he played the game, Motley's legacy is still recognized. In 1994, he was named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, while Sports Illustrated's Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman called Motley, who died in 1999 at the age of 79, the best player in the history of football in his book, A Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football.
EPIX is available by subscription on most cable networks, and the trailer for the documentary can be viewed here: