Walter Ashcraft Jr., 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds by his early 20s, drew on his physique to excel in the Southern California sports world of the mid-20th century.
He placed third in the 1947 California high school shot-put championships, competing for Long Beach Polytechnic, finishing two places above Bob Mathias of Tulare High School, who captured a gold medal in the decathlon at the 1948 London Olympics.
Mr. Ashcraft also played at tackle for the University of Southern California football team. In his senior season, the Trojans, coached by Jess Hill, went 10-1, losing only to Notre Dame, and defeated Wisconsin, 7-0, in the 1953 New Year’s Day Rose Bowl game.
The N.F.L.’s Washington Redskins drafted him in 1953, one of 15 U.S.C. players who were selected.
He received a $5,000 signing bonus from the Redskins, but incurred a knee injury in training camp and never played in an N.F.L. game. Since pro football salaries were modest, he decided to pursue a career elsewhere.
He obtained a master’s degree in education and devoted himself to coaching and hospitality work.
Mr. Ashcraft died on Aug. 18 in Anderson, S.C., of pneumonia stemming from Covid-19, his family said. He was 91.
He had been living at a military veterans’ retirement home with his wife, Betty Jo (Carrera) Ashcraft. During the Korean War, he interrupted his time at U.S.C. to enlist in the Marine Corps, played for a Marine football team in California and was discharged as a sergeant.
Walter White Ashcraft, Jr. was born on Aug. 11, 1929, in Amory, Miss., where his father owned a gas station. His mother, Corinne (Austin) Ashcraft, was a homemaker. One day, when he was 11 or so, his father came upon the aftermath of a lynching — three Black men hanging from a tree.