Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts are set to make history on February 12th.
Super Bowl XXII (22 for those unfamiliar with Roman numerals) holds personal importance for me. I was eight years old, and we moved around a lot. When the Super Bowl came around, we'd moved into the home where I would spend my formative years. As I reflect on sitting on the floor (our furniture was delayed), eating Noble Roman's pizza, and watching the Super Bowl, the permanence of that house was symbolic of Doug Williams' record-setting day in San Diego.
Doug Williams' journey to the Super Bowl
Williams was no stranger to denial. He was not heavily recruited despite a stellar high school career. He finished fourth for the Heisman Trophy in 1977. A quarterback with Williams' resume garners lots of attention. However, the only coach that went to Grambling to work Williams out was a young offensive coordinator named Joe Gibbs. He was so impressed with Williams' workout that he convinced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to take him with the 17th overall pick in 1978.
When Bucs' owner Hugh Culverhouse refused to pay Williams the market rate for starting quarterbacks at the time, Williams sat out a year and signed with the USFL. When the USFL folded in 1986, the only coach who called Williams was his old offensive coordinator, Joe Gibbs. This time Gibbs was the head coach of the Washington Commanders (formerly the Redskins). Starting quarterback Jay Schroder was injured before the playoffs, and Williams led Washington through the playoffs and in their Super Bowl win.
Williams was the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, Super Bowl MVP, and set the record for touchdown passes in one half.
From Williams to Mahomes and Hurts
Though it would be 12 years until another black quarterback would play in a Super Bowl, black quarterbacks experienced several firsts after Williams' Super Bowl triumph. Andre Ware became the first black quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy. Former Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham made three consecutive Pro Bowls from 1988-1990.
Warren Moon became one of the most prolific passers in the game when he joined the Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans) in 1984. The late Steve "Air" McNair led the Tennessee Titans to Super Bowl 34 in 1999. McNair was the highest-drafted black quarterback at the time and the first black quarterback to win MVP in 2003. Even with these milestones, the black quarterback was still more of an anomaly than the norm.
One of the seminal moments for black quarterbacks was the Atlanta Falcons drafting Michael Vick first overall in 2000. It signaled to everyone that at least one franchise thought a playmaker like Vick could be the leader of a team and get to a Super Bowl. Vick led the Falcons to the NFC Championship game in 2004, falling to Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles, guaranteeing one black quarterback in the Super Bowl.
Eight black quarterbacks have played in the Super Bowl, and one of them --Patrick Mahomes-- has made history. Mahomes is one of two black quarterbacks to play in multiple Super Bowls, with Russell Wilson being the other. Mahomes would be the first black quarterback to win multiple Super Bowls with a win on Sunday.
Black quarterbacks have gone from being forced to change positions (ask Tony Dungy) to having two in a Super Bowl. That is history worth celebrating.