We go from the Court to the Gridiron on this edition of Black History Month Athletes. This time, we'll look at the First ever African American Quarterback to win the Superbowl, you guessed it, Doug Williams. Obviously when you hear the name Doug Williams it does not hold as much weight as Hank Aaron and Bill Russell or even the Great Warren Moon but what Mr. Williams did changed the scope of how football would be played forever.
Now let us bring our story way before Doug even played in the NFL. Our story starts from around the late 1960’s. Even though segregation was dying a slow death (thank goodness), racism was alive and well. In many parts of life racism was clear and even ignored by people and football was no exception. Based on the color of your skin, you were automatically slotted at a position. One position “automatic slotting” took place was quarterback. There was this perception that African American people were not as smart and thus did not have the intellect to play quarterback in the NFL. We now know this as false however this was the perception 50 years ago. This meant that most coaches were hesitant to put an African American at the quarterback position, let alone start him. Not just because the coach himself was racist, but in fact the hesitation came from the fact that if a coach tried to put an African American at quarterback, that could spell the end of his coaching tenure, especially if he was coaching a team based in the south. Despite that, eventually teams made statements and allowed African Americans to start at Quarterback for their team. Although there were some talented African American quarterbacks, none won a Superbowl… Enter Doug Williams.
Williams was born in Zachary, Louisiana and grew up playing football. He had reached the college level playing Quarterback at a little known university called Grambling State and legendary coach Eddie Robinson. There he flourished and because of that he was picked 17th overall by Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Williams did not have a good rookie year but he followed it up with good showings for 3 seasons with the Buccaneers. He played so well in the next 3 years that in fact he and the Buccaneers made it to the NFC Championship game in 1979 and took what was once a lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the playoffs at least 3 out of 4 years he was there (During that time he was the only African American Starting Quarterback). Unfortunately he was being underpaid and a contract dispute between Williams and the owner forced him to leave the organization. It is also worth noting that the year Williams left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 2-14. About two years later Williams would join the USFL’s Oklahoma Outlaws which would become the Arizona Outlaws. Williams would again flourish in the USFL and in 1986 he was given another chance in the NFL by the Washington Redskins.
Williams would enjoy a backup role for the Redskins until 1987 where he would sub in for veteran quarterback Jay Schroeder on an off and on basis due to Schroeder dealing with nagging injuries. Williams went 3-2 with a 90.4 QB rating and Coach Joe Gibbs later decided that Williams had earned the starting role due to his leadership skills as well as his quarterbacking and played the season out. What happened next was stuff that can be made into a movie. As the backup turned starter, he led the Redskins to the Superbowl and against Hall of famer John Elway and the Denver Broncos; Williams and the Redskins gave the Broncos a beatdown. Williams had probably the best second quarter of any quarterback ever, it was touchdown after touchdown. By the end of the game the Redskins had won 42-10 and Doug Williams finished with 340 yards passing, 4 touchdowns, and the Superbowl MVP. With that Doug Williams had become the first ever starting African American quarterback to win the Superbowl, proving that African Americans are just as smart at playing quarterback. Since then many African Americans have been starting quarter backs and statically have done even better then Mr. Williams. Even Russell Wilson has come in and won a Superbowl for himself as well. However to this day, Doug Williams is still the only starting African American quarterback to win Superbowl MVP.
Some people think that had it not been for Williams, maybe Hall of Famer Warren Moon would have been passed up and maybe Michael Vick wouldn’t have played. While that’s another discussion for another time I do know this, Mr. Williams will have his name forever written in history for his accomplishments. In my mind he is a hero, not just for the African American community but for Black people all over the world.
Written by Michael Asiffo