Clinton H. Black was a college football player for Yale University who received All-American honors from 1916 to 1917. In 1914 he served as the captain of Yale's freshman football team. He was promoted to the varsity team for the last three games of the 1915 season. Black later served as the varsity team's captain in 1916 and 1917. In 1918 he served in the United States Navy during World War I. In 1920 Black was rumoured to restart the Massillon Tigers pro football team, and enter the team in the newly formed American Professional Football Association (later renamed the National Football League in 1922), however he later turned down the offer.
During the war his ship the USS President Lincoln was hit by a torpedo, fired from a GermanU-Boat. While the Lincoln sank, Black made it into a lifeboat. Soon the German U-Boat surfaced and circled the life rafts. The sub's Captain, claimed to be a Yale alumnus who recognized Black and spoke with him. The sub later left the men to their lifeboats. They were all later rescued by the USS Warrington and transported to France. A previous report of the incident had the Captain as a Harvard graduate, who took Black on board and set the sub's course for Germany.