First Black QB To Start In AFL, Who Went On To Be Star Receiver, Dead At 76

Marlin Briscoe, the first black player to ever start at quarterback in what is now known as the NFL, died Monday, The Associated Press reported. He was 76.

Briscoe starred as a signal-caller at Omaha University in the 1960s before being drafted in 1968 by the Denver Broncos, who wanted him to play defensive back. Briscoe said he would quit if he wasn’t given a shot at quarterback, and his persistence was rewarded when the team let him. He started five games as a rookie, passing for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns and finishing second in rookie of the year voting. But he never got another shot at playing quarterback.

“It was at the time when Black quarterbacks were being denied, so you tried to make sure you were best prepared for the opportunity when it came,” James Harris, another black quarterback who later started for the Los Angeles Rams, told the AP.

More about Marlin Briscoe, who became the first Black starting quarterback in the American Football League more than 50 years ago, passing away Monday:

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 27, 2022

Briscoe’s daughter, Angela Marriott, said her father died of pneumonia at a hospital in Norwalk, California, where he had been hospitalized with circulatory problems.

“He’s made an immense contribution to the sport,” Marriott said. “I hope that he continues to get recognized for the contributions that he made. He was so proud of that achievement.”

When the Broncos wouldn’t let him compete as a field general, Briscoe asked to be released. He resurfaced with the Buffalo Bills, where he became a Pro Bowl wide receiver in 1970. That year, Briscoe caught 57 passes for 1,036 yards and eight touchdowns.

Buffalo traded Briscoe to the Miami Dolphins in 1972, and he won two Super Bowls in three years with his new team. He was a key member of the legendary 1972 team that went 17-0.

“Marlin was a pioneer who shattered barriers, making history as the first Black starting quarterback in the Super Bowl era,” the Broncos said in a statement Monday. “He paved the way for countless others and created an indelible legacy, including through our Marlin Briscoe Diversity Coaching Fellowship. Our deepest sympathies go out to Marlin’s family, friends, and former teammates.”

Although Briscoe only had a brief shot at playing quarterback, he lived to see several black quarterbacks achieve greatness in the league, including Hall of Famer Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, 1988 Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, and current superstars Patrick Mahomes, of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Russell Wilson, who was recently acquired by Briscoe’s old team, the Denver Broncos.


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