5 Black Quarterbacks In NFL History You Should Know
Updated: Feb 3
As today marks the start of Black History Month, it's important to reflect on how African-American athletes have shown resilience and grit as they've faced challenges that their white counterparts didn't have to.
We wanted to celebrate five men who broke past barriers of racism and systemic inequalities to play at the most powerful position in the NFL: quarterback. Several were asked to switch positions, several were questioned for their unconventional style of play. But all were brave enough to step into a role of leadership and strength.
1. Marlin Briscoe
Marlin Briscoe was the first Black quarterback to play in the NFL in the Super Bowl era when he did so for the Denver Broncos (members of the AFL at the time) in 1968. The Magician played under center as he played football growing up, even taking the helm of his college team, University of Nebraska - Omaha. He was selected in the 14th round of the 1968 NFL Draft as an intended cornerback. But he stood his ground and got a shot to play quarterback after the Broncos started their season 0-3 and impressed coaches with solid passes and a touchdown run. He earned the starting spot and still holds franchise records for his performance as a rookie.
“I understood the significance. I knew I was the first and what that meant," Briscoe told The Undefeated. "If I did well, it would make it easier on other guys. But you have to understand: I had always been a quarterback. It’s what I was meant to do. It wasn’t a surprise to me.”
2. Doug Williams
Doug Williams was the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl when he did so with the Washington Football Team in Super Bowl XXII. His incredible stats during the game — including four touchdowns in a quarter, passing yards and an 80-yard touchdown pass — were records at the time. Williams is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is Senior Vice President of Player Development for his former team.
3. Warren Moon
Warren Moon is the first Black quarterback to be inducted into the Hall of Fame when he was a member of the Class of 2006. He's another powerful story of sticking with your gut as he turned down several DI scholarship offers to remain a quarterback. He played at West Los Angeles College before transferring and becoming a star at the helm of the Washington Huskies. He then started his professional career with the Canadian Football League before finally joining the NFL at 28 years old and becoming a nine-time Pro Bowler and one of the best quarterbacks in league history. He remains in the top five for multiple passing records.
4. Randall Cunningham
Randall Cunningham is one of the most-respected quarterbacks in the game. He is widely credited with breaking the mold of a passing quarterback and creating a new role as a dual-threat. He electrified the Philadelphia Eagles in the late 1980s-early 1990s after he was drafted in the second round out of UNLV. Cunningham led the Eagles to the playoffs five times and took a lil breather for the 1996 season before coming back for a stint with the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens.
5. Michael Vick
Michael Vick was the first Black quarterback to be selected as the number one overall pick when he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. He followed in the footsteps of Randall Cunningham as he was equally capable as a rusher and a passer. He also was the first to weave hip-hop culture into the NFL much like Allen Iverson did for the NBA. In his heyday, Mike Vick was everywhere, in music videos, in commercials, on cereal boxes. His dogfighting scandal interrupted his great career, but after serving time in prison and proving himself a changed man, he had a second run with the Philadelphia Eagles and led them to the playoffs twice.