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Past African American QB Greats

 

Charlie "Choo Choo" Brackins
Ht/Wt: 6-1/205, Teams: Green Bay Packers (Drafted in 1955, 16th Rd by Green Bay Packers)
College: Prairie View

BQB-SITE's View:
Charlie "Choo Choo" Brackins played in 1955 for the Green Bay Packers. Drafted in the 16th round of the 1955 draft by the Packers out of Prairie View A&M, where he was a four-year starter and led his team to 33 victories in 37 games. He was a big tall passer at 6’2 and 205 Lbs. Brackins became the fourth black quarterback to play in an NFL game. He played in the closing minutes for the Green Bay Packers in a blowout game against Cleveland on October 23,1955. Green Bay won the game 41-10 and Brackins had two incompletions. His career only lasted seven games and the Packers placed him on waivers after he had broken curfew before a game in Chicago and other unnamed problems. After the “Violations”, Brackins never got a chance to return to the NFL. He had tryouts, mostly as a Defensive Back, but never caught on again and injured his knee leaving the game. He died of cancer in 1990 at the age of 58.

 

 

 

Marlin Briscoe
Ht/Wt: 6-4/210, Teams: Denver Broncos (AFL), Buffalo Bills (AFL), Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions, and New England Patriots (Drafted in 1969, 11th Rd by Denver Broncos - AFL)
College: Nebraska - Omaha

BQB-SITE's View:
Instead of Eldridge Dickey making an impact on pro football in 1968 there was another Black Quarterback that broke through that year. Marlin Briscoe from University of Omaha was drafted in the 14th Rd by the Denver Broncos (AFL) in the same draft as Dickey. Briscoe had been a two-sport star (Basketball and Football) in the Omaha area in both high school and college. Though he was small at 5’11, 185 lbs, Briscoe could more than get the job done at the position. He was well schooled in the position by his uncle Bob Rose a youth coach in the Omaha region. He finished his senior year of college with 2,283 yards passing and was named a NAIA All-American in 1967. He was nicknamed the “Magician” in college for the way he magically got away from defenders to make plays on the move. When Briscoe was signed by the Broncos, they asked him to come in as Defensive Back. Briscoe had been warned that pro football was still not ready for a black quarterback and he had already experienced similar treatment in High School where he had to play running back to get on the field. His college coach Al Caniglia knew Briscoe wanted to play quarterback and advised him to have his contract stipulate that in training camp he be given a three day tryout at the position. When he arrived at training camp there were 8 quarterbacks and Briscoe was listed last on the depth chart. During the beginning of training camp, Briscoe dazzled at the position, but was moved to the defensive backfield after his three day tryout. Briscoe wanting a chance to make the team accepted the move, but fate snuck in to help him. Starter Steve Tensi broke his collarbone and backup Joe DiVito was unproductive. Briscoe finally got his chance in the 3rd game of the season against the Boston Patriots. He entered the game with the Broncos trailing 20-7 and almost helped them pull out a victory in a 20-17 loss, scoring a touchdown running the ball. After his showing Head Coach Lou Saban reluctantly named him the starter and he became the first African American Quarterback to start for a team. He ended up playing in 11 games, 7 of which he started. He finished with a Broncos rookie record of 1,589 yards passing and 14 TD’s, plus 308 yards rushing. Some of Briscoe’s records stood until John Elway came along in 1983. The next season when Briscoe arrive, he was informed by Saban that he was no longer a quarterback and cut him without an explanation. Briscoe needing an opportunity almost signed with the British Columbia Lions (CFL). Instead he got picked up by the Buffalo Bills as an “Athlete”. The Bills were already set at quarterback with Tom Flores and Jack Kemp, additionally they already had a black quarterback in 1969 draftee James Harris, so Briscoe was moved to wide receiver. Briscoe practiced at quarterback only when the others were injured and strictly play wide receiver. He later developed into a quality receiver, playing three seasons for the Bills and earning Pro Bowl honors for the 1970-71 season, finishing with 57 catches for 1036 yards and 8 touchdowns. After leaving Buffalo, Briscoe continued to play WR with the great Miami Dolphins teams of the early 1970’s including the 1972 perfect 17-0 team. He continued to play until 1976, playing with Detroit, San Diego and ending his career with the New England Patriots. Unfortunately Briscoe never got to achieve success at the quarterback position after a stellar rookie season in 1968. He later beat drug addiction and now counsels and coaches children in the Los Angeles area.

 

Randall Cunningham
Ht/Wt: 6-4/210, Teams: Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and Baltimore Ravens (Drafted in 1985, 2nd Rd by Philadelphia Eagles)
College: UNLV

BQB-SITE's View:
  In the NFL, the first two legitimate Pro Bowl African American Quarterbacks/Stars were taking flight in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The first was the previously discussed Warren Moon of the Houston Oilers and the second was Randall Cunningham of the Philadelphia Eagles and later the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and Baltimore Ravens. Cunningham like Moon was also a Southern California native growing up in Santa Barbara. He learned the game from his brother Sam “Bam” Cunningham, who was a star player for USC and later the New England Patriots. Cunningham had to battle through the loss of his Father at an early age and sports were his outlet. He excelled at track (high jump) and football, where he was all state as a punter and quarterback. When it came time for Cunningham to select a school to play for many of the larger schools including USC, wanted him at other positions. Cunningham accepted a scholarship to UNLV, which promised to give him the opportunity to play quarterback. Battling through the loss of his mother during college, Cunningham excelled at a college off of the national radar leading his conference in total yards and in punting average. In his Senior season in 1984, Cunningham led UNLV to the California Bowl beating Toledo 30-13. That year he also threw for 2,628 yards with 24 touchdowns and had an amazing average of 47.5 yards per punt. His career numbers at UNLV were 57.9 Completion Percentage, 8290 Yards Passing with 60 TD’s and a Punting Average of 45.2 yards. Cunningham had his coming out party at the East – West Shrine game after the season. He threw a touchdown, caught a touchdown on a fake play and was named the game’s MVP. Even with his performance and amazing college stats, potential questions were still raised by NFL Personnel men. He was labeled a good fit for the CFL and compared to Reggie Collier and Walter Lewis, two past African American Quarterbacks that were known more for their athleticism and ended up playing in the USFL. The Philadelphia Eagles however were in a rebuilding mode after Dick Vermeil retired. Head Marion Campbell didn’t listened to the critics and picked Cunningham in the 2nd Round of the 1995 Draft. When he was drafted the fans and media focused more on the selection of disappointing offensive lineman Kevin Allen with their 1st Round pick. Cunningham in the preseason of 1985 showed his escapability and flare for making plays out of nothing. He soon was playing at the end of the Eagles first game in a 21-0 loss to the New York Giants. Campbell scrambling to help a sputtering offense name Randall in the 2nd week in a 17-6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. He threw for 211 yards and ran for 90 yards, but threw 4 interceptions. He however was regulated to the bench in favor of Ron Jaworski and the Eagles finished with a record of 7 – 9, with Cunningham finishing with 534 Yards Passing, 1 Touchdown, and 205 Yards Rushing. Campbell was fired after the 1985-1986 and the Eagles hired Buddy Ryan. Ryan named Jaworski the starter, but came up with a plan to use Cunningham, who was 3rd string at the time on 3rd downs. He eventually was part of a revolving door rotation with Matt Cavanaugh and Ron Jaworski finishing with 5 starts, 1,391 Yards Passing with 8 TD’s, and a 2nd on the team 540 yards rushing. In 1987 Cunningham was finally installed as the full time starter, but the 1987 Strike limited the opportunities for the Eagles, who didn’t field a quality “Strike Team” and had 3 losses finishing with a record of 7-9. Cunningham however flourished under the coaching of friend and mentor Quarterbacks Coach Doug Scovil. Cunningham finished with 2,786 Yards Passing with 23 Touchdowns and 505 Yards rushing with 3 TD’s. Cunningham was named to his first Pro Bowl joining James Harris and Warren Moon as the only African Americans Quarterbacks to receive the honor. In the 1988-1989 Cunningham was a one-man gang on offense leading the team in rushing (624 Yards) and passing (3,808 Yards with 24 TD’s). He and a stifling defense led by Reggie White led the team to a 10-6 record and won the NFC East division for the first time since Dick Vermeil left. Their season however ended in the playoffs against the Chicago Bears in the “Fog Bowl”. Cunningham however was recognized being named to his 2nd Pro Bowl and finished 2nd to Boomer Esiason in AP MVP Voting. At the start of the 1989-1990 season Cunningham and the Eagles renegotiated Cunningham’s contract making him one of the highest paid players in the NFL (3 Year, 4 Million Dollar Contract). He was anointed the “NFL’s Ultimate Weapon” by Sports Illustrated and led the Eagles back to the playoffs again. In the playoffs the Eagles lost to the Rams 21-7 and he shouldered most of the blame. Cunningham finished with 3,400 Yards Passing with 21 TD’s and 621 Yards Rushing and led his team in rushing for the 3rd straight year. He was named an alternate to the Pro Bowl. In 1990 the Eagles knew that they had to save the position of Head Coach Buddy Ryan and Cunningham responded with an MVP season rushing for 942 Yards with 5 TD’s and 3,466 Yards Passing with 30 TD’s. He was named to his 3rd straight Pro Bowl. He however had to fight for his starting position with Jim McMahon in the shadows. In the playoff loss to the Redskins, Cunningham was replaced for a series by McMahon and was not happy with the organization. Ryan was shortly fired and Cunningham was said to be part of the movement to have him removed. Cunningham was poised for another big year in 1991, but was hurt in the first game of the season when Bryce Paup tackled him tearing his ACL and ending his season. The ironic part of the injury was Cunningham was in the pocket and not running around when he got hurt. Cunningham returned in 1992 throwing for 2775 yards with 19 TD’s and running for 549 Yards and 5 TD’s, but never seemed his self in Richie Kotite’s offense and was very erratic as the Eagles finally win a playoff game against the New Orleans Saints 36-20, but lose in the Divisional Round to the Dallas Cowboys 34-10. In 1993 the injury bug (Broken Leg) ended Cunningham’s season in the 4th game. This marked the end basically of his Eagles career as he struggled in 1994 in a part time role and losing his starting job to Rodney Peete in 1995. He finished his Eagle career in a playoff game losing to Dallas when he had to enter the game for an injured Peete, but struggled due to him leaving the team to tend to his pregnant wife during the preparation for the game. Cunningham had a brief “Retirement” in 1996, but returned in 1997 with the Minnesota Vikings. Cunningham immediately returned to his old form forming a deadly combination with Randy Moss and Cris Carter and led the Vikings to the divisional playoffs in 1997. In 1998 Cunningham and the Vikings were unstoppable going 15-1. Cunningham finished with 3704 Yards Passing and 34 TD’s, plus 127 yards rushing. The Vikings stormed into the playoffs and missed the Super Bowl by the slightest of margins losing to the Atlanta Falcons 30-27. In 1999 Cunningham struggled and was benched again and moved into the backup role that he ended his career doing finishing with the Dallas Cowboys in 2000 and Baltimore Ravens in 2001. Cunningham finished his career with 29979 yards passing with 207 yards and 4928 yards Rushing with 35 TD’s; his rushing total is a NFL Record for quarterbacks. Cunningham was known for his spectacular play on the field, but was unable to get to the big game like Williams and injuries precluded him during some of his best chances. Cunningham was known as a spectacular player, but football is a team game and he was said to have an aloofness that rubbed fans and some teammates the wrong way. He was the first run/pass threat African American to make it in the NFL. He had a long and distinguished 16-year career that may end in the Hall of Fame.

 

Vince Evans
Ht/Wt: 6-0.5/210,Team(s): Chicago Bears, Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins, Chicago Blitz (USFL), and Denver Gold (USFL) (Drafted in 1977, 6th Rd by Chicago Bears)
College: Univ. of Southern Cal.

BQB-SITE's View:
A veteran of over 100 league games combined from the NFL and USFL.   Had an extremely long career spanning from 1977 to 1995.  He began his pro career in 1977 playing for the Chicago Bears.  Being the starting quarterback for the Bears gave Evans the great opportunity and pleasure to play with the Hall of Fame RB Walter Payton.  Evans attended USC where he was a quality starter.  He was noticed by the scouts for his mobility and strong arm.  Had his best season in  1981 appearing in all 16 games and throwing for 11 TD's.  Had 8 Rushing TD's in 1980, which was good for 8th in the NFL.  Played well for the Chicago Blitz and Denver Gold in the USFL leading them into the playoffs.  Known for leading the Raiders to a thrilling 24-20 Victory over the Jets in October 1993 at the age of 38.  In the game he was 14-for-22 passing for 247 yards and had completed five passes in a row during the game-winning drive. Finished his NFL career with 106 games played with 704 completions for 9485 yards and 52 TD's,  1129 yards rushing w/ 14 TD's.

 

 

 

Joe Gilliam
Ht/Wt: 6-2/210, Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Federals (USFL) (Drafted in 1971, 6th Rd by Pittsburgh Steelers)
College: Tennessee State

BQB-SITE's View:
Gilliam followed Eldridge Dickey’s path at Tennessee State University. Gilliam played from 1969 to 1971 at TSU, breaking every major record at the school and other historically black college records. He was known to be one of the most popular players in Tennessee History and gained his nickname, because he was said to have is name called all along Jefferson Street, which was the main road in Nashville, Tennessee. He was an All-American in 1970 and 1971. He was an 11th-round draft pick by the Steelers in 1972 NFL Draft. He became a starter when some players including Quarterback Terry Bradshaw went on strike. When all of the players returned, Gilliam kept the starting job through six games with a record of 4-1-1. He however faltered and Bradshaw returned to lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory. Gilliam was never fully except by the “Blue Collar” Pittsburgh area, which was not ready for an African American quarterback in the early ‘70’s. Gilliam received death threats and other hostile treatment including lots of “hate” mail. The outside pressure and on the field struggles regrettably led Gilliam to his unfortunate history of drug abuse. Gilliam played very little for the Steelers in the 1975 season (Another Super Bowl Victory) and was cut in the off-season. He was signed for a brief period by the New Orleans Saints in 1976, but was cut for disciplinary reason. Gilliam could not beat his drug demons and even an attempt to revive his career with the Washington Federals of the USFL failed. He was homeless for a little while and even pawned his Super Bowl rings to pay for drugs, but         recovered with the help of his father, he got back Super Bowl rings and started a football camp for children at Tennessee State, which included drug counseling. Sadly he died of a sudden heart attack in December of 2000.

 

James Harris
Ht/Wt: 6-4/210, Teams: Buffalo Bills (AFL), LA Rams, San Diego Chargers (Drafted in 1969, 8th Rd by Buffalo Bills - AFL)
College: Grambling

BQB-SITE's View:
Harris came on the AFL/NFL scene in 1969 when he was drafted out of Grambling in the 8th Round of the 1969 AFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. Harris played at Grambling from 1966-68 and as a senior, he passed for 1,972 yards and 21 touchdowns. In three years as Grambling’s starting quarterback, he led the Tigers to a 24-5-1 record. He also had set numerous school and historically black college records in his collegiate career. Harris, nicknamed “Shack”, was different from past black quarterbacks in that he was a “Pocket Passer” with comparable size of Joe Namath at 6’4 and weighing 210 pounds. He also had bad knees, which affected his mobility and forced him to be a pure passer. Teams knew in picking him there was little chance in converting him to “Black” positions (WR, DB, or TE). Harris was forewarned by his legendary college coach Eddie Robinson of the pitfalls of a black man playing quarter in professional football. He pointed to the examples of how coaches and personnel men had treated Eldridge Dickey (Converted to WR) and Marlin Briscoe (Cut and Converted). Harris was undaunted and wanted to play quarterback at the next level. Harris after being drafted by the Bills was glad to follow in the footsteps and of his trailblazer teammate Marlin Briscoe, who was a receiver on the team at the time. In 1969, Harris becomes the first black quarterback to be named a team's starter for the first game of a season. 
In the first game versus the New York Jets played in Buffalo, the Bills lose 33-19.  Harris goes on to play in 4 games in the 1969 season.  Harris battled injuries and languished on the Bills bench behind Jack Kemp and Tom Flores appearing in only 18 games from 1969 to 1971. It was after the 1971 season that new Bills coach Lou Saban determined that Harris was not a pro quarterback and cut him. Harris with no takers did not play in the 1972 season. Before the 1973 season Chuck Knox of Los Angeles Rams gave Harris the chance to return to the NFL as a backup QB. By 1974, Harris was the starting quarterback for the Rams and the team was winning. He was the first African American to start a NFL Playoff game, leading the Rams into the NFC Championship where they lost to the Vikings. He was named the first African American QB to the Pro Bowl for the 1974-75 season, where he was named the MVP of the game. His numbers for the 1974-75 season were 106 Completion on 198 attempts for 1544 yards and 11 TD’s in only 11 games. He continued to be the Rams starter until the 1976-1977 season and then went to the San Diego Chargers in 1977, where he started and then was a backup until 1980. Harris was the first African American QB to experience lengthy success as a starter in both the regular season and playoffs. He also paved the way for future African American Quarterbacks to play in the Pro Bowl against the league’s best players. Injuries and Discrimination marked portions of Harris’ 12 year career, but he served as a mentor and role model for future African American quarterbacks. Harris later became a trailblazer for African Americans in a front office role. He was instrumental in putting together the 2000 Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens team and was named General Manager/Head of Personnel for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003.



Steve McNair
Ht/Wt: 6-2/235, Teams: Houston Oilers, Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens (Drafted in 1991 by Hou. 1st Round, 3rd Overall)
College: Alcorn St

BQB-Site's View: The game’s ultimate warrior, who has survived various injuries including strains, fractures, and bruises to play every week. He ain’t as flashy as his “Air McNair” Alcorn State (3rd in 1994 Heisman Balloting from 1AA school) or early Oiler days, but he is a consummate winner that always knows how to move the chains. He has led his teams to the playoffs five times and has respectable 5-5 record in them and let’s not forget he and Eddie George led the Titans within 1 yard of possibly winning Super Bowl XXXIV. I know it was business, but what was Tennessee thinking letting a 2 time Pro Bowl player and Co-MVP (2003) leave for almost nothing (traded for a 4th Rd Pick) and then watching him lead his team to 13 victories including one over them. Has six 3,000 yards passing seasons on his resume and is one of the all time leaders in rushing as a quarterback with 3570 yards. Borderline Canton candidate, who will need a couple more good years in Baltimore. McNair is the starter for the Baltimore Ravens after being traded by the Tennessee Titans for a 4th Round pick (2007) in the 2006 Off Season.  The traded marked the end of a long, but nasty end of McNair's Titans career.  Before the trade the Titans banned McNair from their training facility and later lost a grievance. He has led the Titans from being a displaced franchise (Houston Oilers) to a perennial AFC Title contender. He is winding his career down as a “Warrior” who might walk away from the game soon. The only thing he has left to accomplish to win a Super Bowl and that probably will not happen in Tennessee in the near future. In 2002, McNair led the Titans to an AFC South Title and 1st round playoff bye. McNair had to battle injuries to his ankle, but he started every game and proved to be a worthy starter. McNair is a double threat, can give opposing defenses headaches with strong arm in air or explosive running ability on ground, excellent pocket passer. McNair owns a record of 20-18 as NFL starter and has thrown for or run for at least one touchdown in 30 of 38 NFL starts. He became the youngest (25) and only fourth quarterback in franchise history to post 3,000-yard passing season. McNair is a dangerous runner who has ability to run around or through opposing defenders and he led all quarterbacks in rushing yards (674 in, 97 and 559 in, 98). His 1997 total was the third-highest rushing total by a quarterback in NFL history behind Randall Cunningham (942 yards in 1990) and Bobby Douglas (968 yards in 1972). McNair has started 33 consecutive games entering 1999 season, which ranks fourth among current NFL quarterbacks, already fourth on Titans, all-time career passing list with 7,659 yards. He was the first quarterback drafted and third overall player selected in 1995 NFL draft out of Alcorn State. McNair had to prove that he was capable of performing on the larger stage coming from a Division 1AA and historically black university. McNair proved that he was up to the task by leading the Titans to the Super Bowl (Super Bowl XXXIV) and becoming the second BQB to Start the game. In the game the Titans came a yard short of winning the game, but McNair has proven that he is a winner. In 1998 McNair started 16 games and set career highs in attempts (492), completions (289), yards (3,228), and passing touchdowns (15). In 1997 McNair started 16 games for Oilers. In his first full season as starter, he helped team set franchise mark for fewest interceptions in a single season (13) and led team in rushing TDs with eight and ranked second on team in rushing with 674 yards, third most in NFL history by QB, while averaging 6.7 yards-per-carry. In 1996 McNair saw action in nine games with four starts and had an overall passer rating 90.6. In 1995 McNair was placed on the inactive list as a dressed-third quarterback for first eight games of the season. Saw his first NFL action on Oilers' last two series of fourth quarter at Browns (11/5). McNair’s College Highlights include: Only player in NCAA history to gain over 16,000 yards (16,823) in total offense during his college career. Set collegiate record by averaging 400.55 yards in total offense per game. Became only the third player in Division I-AA to throw for 100 TDs in a career (119). Owns every Alcorn State game, season and career passing and total offense record...Finished with 928 completions in 1,673 attempts (55.5%) for 14,496 yards passing with 119 TDs and 58 INTs. Added 2,327 yards and 33 TDs on 375 rushing attempts (6.2 avg.). Also was an Unanimous All-America choice.
BQB_Site believes that Steve McNair has been a good example of a NFL Quarterback. He plays through injuries and is the unquestioned leader of the Titans. He took his team to the Super Bowl and almost won. He has a chance of becoming one of the first African American QB’s in the Hall of Fame.
Strengths: Prototypical Size, Extremely Tough Competitor, Great Scrambler, and Strong Leadership Skills.
Weaknesses: Takes too Many Hits, Doesn't Throw Enough, and Nagging Injuries.

Career Numbers: 158 games, 59.9 Comp %, 30,191 yards, 7.0 ypp, 172 TDs, 114 INTs w/ 3570 yards rushing & 37 TDs

 

Warren Moon
Ht/Wt: 6-2.5/210,Team(s): Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, and Edmonton Eskimos (CFL) (Signed as Undrafted F\A in 1979 by Edmonton - CFL)
College: University of Washington

BQB-SITE's View:
The 1st African American Quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in July of 2006.  Moon had grown up in Southern California and experienced some racism, but on the larger part was viewed as just another player. Blessed with a rifle for an arm, Moon always knew quarterback was the position that he wanted to play. He began to excel at the position in youth football and it continued in High School. After spending a season at West LA Junior College, Moon accepted a scholarship to Washington, because they did not ask him to switch positions and he was going to get the chance to play quarterback. Other PAC 10 schools including USC and UCLA were looking at him to play other positions. Moon went on to have a stellar career at Washington, leading them to victory in the nationally televised 1978 Rose Bowl. Even though Moon had excelled, he went undrafted in the 1978 Draft and signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. Moon again showed that he was a true talent and led the Eskimos to five Grey Cups. He passed for 21,228 yards and 144 TD's in just six seasons in the CFL. Finally in 1984 with his stock never higher the Houston Oilers decided to sign him to a Free Agent contract. The ironic thing from the signing was that there were still coaches and personnel men that believed Moon wasn’t good enough for the NFL. Moon led the Oilers to the playoffs seven straight years , operating their “Run and Shoot” offense to near perfection. If he had a defensive compliment, the Oilers probably could have made it to the Super Bowl one of those years. After leaving the Oilers, Moon enjoyed success playing for the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs. When he retired in 2000 at the age of 44, Moon had thrown for more than 49,000 yards 391 touchdowns in the NFL. Moon was selected to nine Pro Bowls and only Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton and John Elway lead him in some statistics. Only Marino and Elway have completed more passes and have more yards in NFL History. He finished with more completions, passing yards, and touchdowns than anyone if you combine his CFL and NFL numbers (70,553 yards and 435 touchdowns).

 

Rodney Peete
Ht/Wt: 6-0.5/230,Team(s): Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, and Car. Panthers (Drafted in 1989, 6th Rd by Detroit Lions)
College: Univ. of Southern Cal.

BQB-SITE's View:
Rodney Peete was a 14 Year veteran and recently ended his career with the Carolina Panthers. Peete passed for over 3,000 yards and 15 TD’s in his last significant action in 2002. Peete was a 1989 draft pick of the Detroit Lions in the 6th Round. He has lasted the majority of his career as backup and spot starter for the Lions, Eagles, Redskins, Raiders, Cowboys, and Panthers. His best year was in 1995, when he compiled a 9-3 mark as a starter and was the quarterback of record in all 10 of the Eagles regular season victories. He particularly enjoyed a spectacular outing for Philadelphia in wild card playoff victory versus Detroit (12/30/95), completing 17 of 25 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and directing the offense to five touchdowns and three field goals on its first 11 drives to help the unit produce an Eagles playoff record 452 yards of total offense. Peete’s College Highlights Include: Rodney concluded his career as Southern Cal's all-time leader with 1,081 pass attempts, 630 completions and 8,225 passing yards. He posted a 31-17 mark as a starter for the Trojans while guiding the team to the Rose Bowl in each of his final two seasons. He still ranks as the school's all-time leader with 8,640 yards of total offense, 1,371 combined rushing and passing attempts and 1,081 pass attempts and ranks second in school annals for completions and with 54 touchdown passes. He currently ranks second in school history for a single season with 223 completions, 2,812 passing yards and 2,880 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, his five touchdown passes thrown versus Stanford in 1987 still stand as a school mark. A runner-up for the Heisman to Andre Ware. Peete was the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year as a senior in 1988, Rodney completed 223-of-359 passes for 2,812 yards and 18 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and also earned first-team All-America and first-team All-Pac 10 recognition. He completed 197-of-332 passes for 2,709 yards and 21 touchdowns with 12 interceptions as a junior in 1987. Rodney threw for 2,138 yards and 10 touchdowns with 15 interceptions on 160-of-305 passing as a sophomore in 1986. He connected on 50-of- 85 passes for 566 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions his freshman year in 1985. He also was an All-Pac 10 third baseman for the Southern Cal baseball team in 1988 after hitting .338 with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs as a senior. After batting .297 with 18 home runs and 84 RBIs in three years of baseball, Rodney was selected by the Oakland A's in the 13th round of the 1989 college draft.  I believe that Rodney Peete has had a solid NFL career, but not a spectacular one. In college Peete was often compared to cross-town rival Troy Aikman. Aikman definitely had the better career, but Peete has distinguished himself as an effective player off of the bench and as a spot starter. Unfortunately his career never was able to fully blossom in Detroit due to management and injuries, but he has been able to sustain a solid career in the NFL. He along with Randall Cunningham and Doug Williams paved the way for many African American qb's.
 

 

Fritz Pollard
Ht/Wt: 5-8, 165,Team(s): Akron - APFA, Hammond Pros (Signed in 1914 by Akron)
College: Brown University

BQB-SITE's View:
One of best “Signal Callers” of this time was Frederick (Fritz) Pollard a back from Brown (Class of 1918). Though only 5’9 and 165 lbs, Pollard ran with a hard slashing style that defied his size. At Brown as a freshman in 1915, Pollard led his team to the Rose Bowl against Washington State, becoming the first African-American to play in the Rose Bowl. In his senior year he was named to Walter Camp’s All- American first team, the first African American in the backfield. Professionally he played in the American Professional Football Association (Precursor to NFL) for seven years for Akron (1919-1921, 1925-26), Milwaukee (1922), Hammond (1923, 1925) and Providence (1926). Even though Pollard faced discriminatory tactics by fans and opposing players, including the racially insensitive song “Bye Bye Blackbird” and dressing away from his teammates, he continued to prosper as he did in college. He led the Akron Pros to the championship in 1920, attaining All League status and was lauded along with Jim Thorpe as the major gate attractions. Later on he was the first African American head coach in the NFL (Hammond, Indiana) and is credited on the Fritz Pollard website (www.fritzpollard.com) and by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the first African American Quarterback, playing the position and taking direct snaps from center for the Hammond Pros in a couple of games in 1923. He was elected to the College Hall of Fame (1954, 1st African American) and was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005 almost 80 years after his playing days were over. He was a true pioneer of the game and left a lasting legacy for future African American Quarterbacks and players.

Photo credit: Pro Football Hall of Fame

 


Kordell Stewart
Ht/Wt: 6-1/210, Team(s): Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens - (Drafted in 1994, 2nd Rd Steelers)
College: Colorado

BQB-SITE's View:
Currently Kordell Stewart is listed as the 2nd QB on the Pittsburgh Steelers Depth Chart behind Tommy Maddox. Stewart has had an up and down career in the NFL. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but he is also known for the game-killing turnover. Stewart has been on the Steelers roster for 8 seasons and I believe he has played his last game for the Steelers. The intriguing point about Stewart is, he is a tremendous athlete who could play QB, RB, or WR in the NFL and succeed. Early in his career Stewart was nicknamed "Slash" by head coach Bill Cowher, because he played QB, WR and RB as a rookie. The "Slash" role was a blessing and a curse for Stewart, it showed he was a “Team Player” willing to help out on the field, but he probably digressed as a pure QB. The “Slash” role definitely confused defenses and made offensive coordinators want to have their own “Slash”. Other QB’s who have also tried to imitate Stewart include Antwaan Randle El, Troy Woodbury, David Dinkins, Hines Ward and others. The “Slash” experiment looked to be an early success for Stewart, when was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1997, but his development with the Steelers was stunted by having different coordinators (Gailey, Lewis, Gilbride, and Mularkey) every season and the Steelers losing in the AFC Championship 2 times under Stewart. In the 2002-2003 season, Stewart was coming off of a Pro Bowl season in 2001, but struggled early and lost his starting position to NFL Comeback Player of the Year Tommy Maddox. The Steelers started the season 1-3, but Maddox was able to rally them to an AFC North title and lead them far into the playoffs. Stewart spent the final weeks and playoffs of the 2002 season on the Steelers’ bench being a cheerleader. In 2001, Stewart had a great regular season, but the offense stalled in the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots and Stewart threw two costly end of game interceptions. In 1998, Stewart threw for a career-high 252 completions but his overall production was down from the previous year. Finished with a 62.9 quarterback rating, completing 252-of-458 passes for 2,560 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. Also rushed for 406 yards on 81 carries, a 5.0-yard average, and two TD's. The 1997 season was the year that Stewart showed he could play the quarterback position. Stewart started in all 16 regular-season and both postseason contests. Stewart had an outstanding first season as a QB, becoming only the fourth player in Steelers history to surpass 3,000 passing yards. He was selected as an alternate to the Pro Bowl and finished the season with 3,020 passing yards, completed 236 of 440 pass attempts, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for a 75.2 pass rating. He also was the team's second-leading rusher, gaining 476 yards on 88 carries. He also had a long run of 74 yards versus Baltimore (10/5), which is the third-longest TD run by a quarterback in NFL history. He also became the first quarterback in the NFL to throw 20 or more TD passes and rush for 10 or more TD’s. He set an NFL mark as the only player to have two games with at least two rushing TD’s and three passing TD’s in a game. Also had the longest postseason touchdown run in team history with his 40-yard sprint against New England (1/3) that was also the longest rush of his postseason career and the third playoff rushing touchdown. Stewart also set personal postseason highs for passing attempts (36) and yards (201) against Denver in the AFC Championship game (Lost game after costly interception). In 1996, Stewart continued his “Slash” ways, throwing 30 passes, catching 17 passes for 293 yards with 3 TD’s and rushing 39 times for 171 yards and 5TDs. In 1995, Stewart burst on the scene as “Slash”, being named Steelers Rookie of the Year. Stewart was used in multiple positions and ways. He even punted once for over 40 yards. Stewart accounted for 30 first downs (14 rushing, 13 receiving, 3 passing) including the postseason. Played 30 snaps at quarterback including the postseason and became the 2nd BQB to appear in Super Bowl (Super Bowl XXII – Against Dallas Cowboys). Stewart’s College Highlights at Colorado Include: Holding school all-time records with 456 completions on 785 passes with 7,770 yards in total offense. Also holds school's all-time records for average yards per completion (13.8), yards in total offense per game (235.5) and yards per offensive play (6.36). Threw for 300 yards 6 times and had only 2.4% of his passes intercepted. As a senior, Stewart was named to the All-American 2nd team selection by AP and made the play of the year with a “Hail Mary” to beat Michigan on national TV.
I believe Stewart was a trendsetter in establishing the “Slash” role in the football, but he might have been a detriment to his own growth as a QB. When Stewart entered the NFL from Colorado, he said he wanted to be a QB only, but changed his mind to get a chance. Now whenever Stewart has difficulty, management and fans call for him to be “Slash”.

 

George Taliaferro
Ht/Wt: 6-3/230,Team(s): LA Dons - 1949 (AAFC), NY Yanks - 1951, Baltimore Colts - 1953, Philadelphia Eagles - 1955 (Signed as Undrafted F\A in 1949 by LA Dons - AAFC)
College: Indiana

BQB-SITE's View:
Around the same time period George Taliaferro, a single-wing tailback from Indiana University started two games as a T-formation quarterback for the Baltimore Colts in 1953. He only got the chance to play Quarterback, because of a rash of injuries to the three other QB’s on the roster and the coach relenting. Taliaferro took the snap from center in a “Shotgun” fashion and had to decide to pass or run very quickly. After those two games, he played Halfback primarily and only attempted two more passes in his career. Taliaferro was a big strong runner, who was considered as tough to bring down as Marion Motley. At Indiana Taliaferro was known for his excellent play on the field and gaining access for African American students to campus and public facilities during the mid 1940’s. He led Indiana to the Big 10 championship in 1945. After a stellar career at Indiana, he was the first African American picked in the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears in the thirteenth round of the 1949 draft, but elected to sign with the Los Angeles Dons of the AAFC. He played with the Dons in 1949; New York Yanks 1950-51; Dallas Texans 1952; Baltimore Colts 1953-54; Philadelphia Eagles 1955. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1951, 1952, and 1953. He finished his passing career with 61 Games Played, 47 Completions from 160 Attempts for 843 yards with 6 TD’s and 15 Interceptions. His statistics show that he was a better runner than a passer throughout his career, finishing with 1794 yards and 10 TD’s rushing, but you never know if Taliaferro could have been a passing QB if he had the right coaching and support.

 

 

Willie Thrower
Ht/Wt: 5-11/182,Team(s): Chicago Bears, Toronto Argonauts (CFL), and Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL) (Signed as F\A in 1952 by Chicago Bears)
College: Michigan State

BQB-SITE's View:
In 1953, seven years after Washington and Strode broke the modern color barrier in pro football; Backup Chicago Bears QB Willie Thrower became the first African-American quarterback to solely play quarterback in an NFL game on October 18, 1953 against the San Francisco 49ers. He played under center and received the snap directly, making him the first African American QB since Pollard in 1923. Thrower a native of New Kensington, Pennsylvania had already been the first African American QB in the Big 10 conference, playing for Michigan State from 1950 to 1952, helping them win the National Championship in 1952. In his historical game, Thrower went 3 for 8 for 27 yards in a 35 to 28 loss. What was unfortunate about the game was George Blanda, who had struggled was reinserted into the game at the 5 yard line to complete a drive Thrower had started. After his debut against the 49ers, Thrower never appeared in another NFL game. Before the next season Thrower, who made the Bears team in 1953 as basically a “walk-on” was cut the following year in 1954. Thrower wanting to play QB and without any other takers in the NFL decided to go to the Canadian Football League, playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and semi pro in Toronto for four years before injuries shortened his career. He retired at age 27. His feat of a black man playing quarterback was considered such an oddity for the time that “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” featured him in a story. Thrower had a good outlook on his brief time at QB in the NFL and told The Valley News Dispatch of Tarentum, Pa., before he passed away in 2002. "I look at it like this: I was like the Jackie Robinson of football. A Black quarterback was unheard of before I hit the pros,"

 

Jay Walker
Ht/Wt: 6-3/229, Team(s): New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings and Barcelona Dragons (NFL Europe), (Drafted in 7th Rd in1994,  New England Patriots)
College: Howard and Long Beach State

BQB-SITE's View:
One of the many young quarterbacks that followed veterans like Doug Williams, Warren Moon (teammate in Minnesota), James Harris, and others into the NFL.  Walker found a blessing disguise when he transferred from Long Beach State University after football was dropped to HBCU Howard University.  At Howard, he set single-season records in pass completions with 223 and in passing yardage with 3,508.  He also holds the single-game record for pass completions with 38.  He was selected to the All-MEAC teams of 1992 and 1993 and was voted Offensive Player of the Year in 1993.  He was voted All-American by the Sheridan Broadcasting Network.  Also  led the Bison to an undefeated regular season in1993 and a national I-AA ranking of #8.  Spent four years in the NFL and NFL Europe before returning to Howard and graduating in 1998.  Currently, he is CEO and President of Walker Financial Services, broadcasts football games on ESPN, and serves in the Maryland House of Representatives.

 

 

John Walton
Ht/Wt: 6-3/215,Team(s): LA Rams, Philadelphia Eagles,  Chicago Fire (WFL), San Antonio Wings (WFL), and Boston/New Orleans Breakers (USFL) (Drafted in 1976, 12th Rd by Philadelphia Eagles)
College: Elizabeth City College

BQB-SITE's View:
A quality backup, who always played well in the NFL preseason.  He was said to be like a coach on the field by Coach Dick Coury.  He started his pro playing career with the Los Angeles Rams in 1969, moving on to the Chicago Fire (1974) and San Antonio Wings ('75) of the World Football League before joining the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976. He left the Eagles and the NFL in 1979, at 32.  Later came back with the Boston/New Orleans Breakers of the USFL.  Was a favorite of Philadelphia Eagles Coach Dick Vermeil for his smart decisions.  Played an awesome game in relief of Ron Jaworski on a Monday Night game in week 11 in Dallas leading the Eagles to a 31-21 victory.  Later coached at is alma mater.  Finished his NFL career with 15 games played throwing for 338 yards and  3 TD's.
 

 

 

 

 

Andre Ware
Ht/Wt: 6-3/230,Team(s): Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, and Berlin Thunder (NFL Europe) (Drafted in 1991, 1st Rd by Detroit Lions)
College: University of Houston

BQB-SITE's View:
A major breakthrough in College Football came when Quarterback Andre Ware of Houston was named the 1989 Winner of the Heisman Trophy. Ware became the first African American Quarterback to win the award after others had contended, but were passed over. Ware broke almost every major college record for passing while leading the Houston Cougars “Run and Shoot” explosive offense. He in his Heisman Trophy winning junior season he threw for 4,699 yards and 46 TD’s and lead the Cougars to a 9-2 record. He later spent four years with Detroit after being drafted in the 1st Round in, 11th overall in the 1990 NFL Draft. He battled injuries and competition from Erik Kramer and Rodney Peete, playing in 14 games, while starting 6 of them for the Lions. He also spent time in the CFL with Ottawa in 1995 and Toronto (Backup on Grey Cup Champion 1997 team). He attempted one last comeback to the NFL in 2001 playing for the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe after being allocated by the Oakland Raiders. He fractured his shoulder in the fifth game of the NFLE season and was cut in training camp by the Oakland Raiders. After being cut Ware retired and returned to the Houston area, starting his own computer consulting business and commentating college football games. Ware unfortunately never made the impact that was thought of him after winning the Heisman.

 

 

 

Doug Williams
Ht/Wt: 6-3/230,Team(s): Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oklahoma/Arizona Outlaws (USFL), Washington Redskins (Drafted in 1978, 1st Rd by Tampa Bay Bucs, 17th Overall)
College: Grambling

BQB-SITE's View:
The biggest contributor in my opinion to the journey of the African American Quarterback.  Doug Williams of Grambling experienced the entire cycle of the African American Quarterback. Williams more than any other past or present player experienced the extreme highs and lows of being an African American Quarterback. Williams went from a Potential High School Converted QB to College All American to Professional Starter to Vilified Holdout to the USFL to Unwanted Again to back in the NFL to Super Bowl Hero to “Black balled” in his professional career that spanned from 1978 to 1989. Williams from Louisiana started off as a High School Quarterback, whose raw skills were waiting to explode. Being from the South, Williams was not offered a chance to play quarterback by any of the larger SEC schools looking at him. He chose to go to historically black college Grambling and learn under the guidance of the Legendary Eddie Robinson. Williams was a record setting quarterback at Grambling, finishing in 1977 with a NCAA Record 93 Touchdowns and 8,411 yards passing. During his stay there, Williams followed in the footsteps of his “Big Brother” James Harris. Harris had already blazed the trail of an African American quarterback going from Grambling to the NFL. Harris had experienced racism on and off of the football field and gave Williams first hand knowledge of what to expect in the NFL. Williams had the size of Harris at 6’3, 210 lbs, but he could move around better than Harris. Before the draft Coach Robinson and Harris advised Williams about how the draft usually treated African American Quarterbacks, but to everyone’s surprise the former expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Williams in the 1st Round, 17th overall of the 1978 NFL Draft. Williams became the first African-American quarterback drafted in the first round since the 1970 merger and he would not be asked to convert to another position unlike Eldridge Dickey before him. Coach John McKay believed in Williams and thought he was the Buccaneers quarterback of the future. Williams held out for 1 week against Hugh Culverhouse, who was known for his mismanagement and unwillingness to pay players. Williams soon learned how a high-profile African American Quarterback was treated in the South when he didn’t follow the program. He received hate mail and harsh criticism from fans and the media. After signing he appeared in 10 games, throwing for 1170 yards and 7 TD’s, plus 1 rushing touchdown. The following season in 1979 – 1980, Williams established himself as a player on the rise. He threw for 2448 yards and 18 TD’s and ran for additional 2 touchdowns leading the Buccaneers to NFC Central Division title and a playoff victory over the Eagles, losing to the Rams in the NFC Championship. He again led the Buccaneers in the playoffs in 1980-1981 and 1981-1982, where they lost to Dallas each year. The Buccaneers shortcomings in the playoffs were due to a lack of a running game and a porous defense, but Williams was blamed by the Tampa Bay area. Williams soon became a target of vandalism to his home and vile hate mail filled with racial epithets. When Williams held out against Culverhouse again in 1983, things really got ugly between Williams and the fans and media. Williams believed that he was grossly underpaid and in his biography Quarterblack: Shattering the NFL Myth he stated, “Then after five years and two division titles, I was only the 43rd-highest-paid quarterback in the league. I held out again, and eventually went to the USFL. My wife had just died of a brain tumor. There was a three-month-old baby girl to take care of. You couldn't believe some of the letters I'd gotten in Tampa. Everyone heard about the package I got with the watermelon inside and the note, 'Throw this, (epithet). They might be able to catch it.' It got so that every time I got a letter with no return address, I wouldn't open it.” Unable to work out a deal with the Buccaneers and without takers in the rest of the NFL, Williams signed with Oklahoma Outlaws of the USFL. Williams had thought that things would be better in the USFL, but he joined at a time when the league was struggling. The Outlaws had trouble making payroll and moved to Arizona after 1 season. They played one more year and the league folded soon after. Williams finished with 6757 yards passing with 36 TD’s and 4 TD’s Rushing. Once the USFL closed down, Williams was unable to find a job in the NFL due to his outspokenness and took a job at Southern University working with the receivers. While not coaching, he was home figuring that his career was over when Joe Gibbs looking for a veteran backup signed him in 1987. Williams played off and on during the season as starter Jay Schroeder struggled with injuries and effectiveness. Joe Gibbs decided to bench Schroeder for the playoffs and started Williams in his place. Williams responded by beating Chicago and Minnesota to get to Super Bowl XXII against the Denver Broncos and making the first African American Quarterback to start in the Super Bowl. Leading up to the game, the Redskins were underdogs (3 ˝ points) and everyone expected John Elway to win the game. Elway was cast as the “Golden Boy” and Williams as the villain by the media. The media continued to hound Williams with questions about him being the first black to start in a Super Bowl game and one member asked him the galling question “So how long have you been a black quarterback?”, which he did not answer. In the game Williams twisted his knee in the first quarter and the Broncos jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Williams was taken out of the game for a few plays, but responded in the second quarter with a Super Bowl record 228 yards passing, four touchdowns. He finished the game with Super Bowl record 340 yards and 4 TD’s in the 42-10 triumph and was named the MVP. His victory was the defining moment for African American Quarterbacks and future African American Quarterbacks always state the significance of the accomplishment and name Williams as a life-long hero. Ironically before the 1988-1989 NFL season again Williams had to fight for a better contract. This time the Redskins gave in to pressure and signed him to a lucrative deal. Williams responded with a season of 2609 yards and 15 TD’s in only 11 games. In 1989 – 1990 season Williams only played in 4 games and the Redskins released him. Williams was unable to find any positions in the NFL even after being a Super Bowl MVP. Around NFL he had been “Black Balled” for his outspokenness and there was a definite bias held by NFL Personnel men and an attitude to get him out of the game. Having no takers and not wanting to go to the CFL, Williams left the game at 32 years old after playing in 88 games, leaving with 16,998 yards and 100 TD’s passing and 15 rushing TD’s. Shortly after leaving the game, he wrote a "Tell All" book about his journey as an African American Quarterback, the book called “Quarterblack: Shattering the NFL Myth” was very informative, opinionated, and ticked off the NFL establishment. Williams was never called by any NFL people and was “Blackballed” for good. He later became a successful Head Coach at Morehouse College and Grambling where he replace Robinson. Williams is now a key member in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers personnel department. He will not make the Hall of Fame with his career numbers, but his impact will far exceed his numbers, because he led the way future African American Quarterbacks. By winning the Super Bowl and being named the MVP he open eyes that did not want to see.

 

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