SAN DIEGO — The first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl turned out to be the first quarterback, of any color, to stop a Super Bowl.
The first black quarterback to play in a Super Bowl turned out to be the first quarterback of any color to play with this gaudy show.
Washington's Doug Williams turned Super Bowl XXII into his personal video toy Sunday at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
He shrugged off a nasty knee strain late in the first quarter, threw four touchdown passes in the second, won the game's most valuable player award and made it worlds easier for the next black quarterback to play in a Super Bowl.
Which was the smartest thing he did all day. The next black quarterback to start a Super Bowl could turn out to be Doug Williams.
Williams and the Washington Redskins crushed the Denver Broncos, 42-10.
Before the game, Williams surprised people when he said, "the hardest thing in the world is getting to the Super Bowl."
During the game, he surprised the Broncos by throwing for 228 yards in the second quarter. He finished with 340 yards on 18 completions in 29 attempts. The old Super Bowl passing-yardage record belonged to 49er Joe Montana, who threw for 331 yards in 1985.
After the game somebody asked Williams if he surprised himself.
"Did I surprise you?" he replied.
Nothing surprises Doug Williams. In 1983, his wife of 11 months woke up with a headache. A week later she was dead of a brain tumor.
Less than two years later, his daughter, who was 3 months old when her mother died, spotted a picture of her on the wall. "That's my mother," she told Williams. "God got her."
Before that year ended, Williams had signed with the United States Football League's Oklahoma Outlaws when a relatively minor contract dispute with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers grew into a deal breaker.
It would be four years before he would return to the National Football League. One season after that, he would be starting and winning in the Super Bowl.
The day before the biggest game of his life, a dentist needed three hours to perform root-canal surgery on an abscessed tooth.
The Redskins' first four possessions started at their 18-, 17-, 16- and 16-yard lines. More than one of his receivers dropped balls that should have been caught. Several of Williams passes sailed wild and high.
Then, less than 14 minutes into the game, Williams slipped and hyper-extended his left knee.
"Everybody on the sidelines was yelling, 'Relax, relax, relax,' " Washington Coach Joe Gibbs said. "But I think we were nervous."
"The guys knew I was hurting," Williams said. "But they also knew I'm the type of guy who has been through a lot of adversity and pain. They knew I would hang in there."
Jay Schroeder replaced Williams for two plays. Williams told Gibbs he wanted back in. "He came back and told us what we have to do," wide receiver Gary Clark said. And by halftime Williams was the principal reason Washington had reversed a 10-0 Bronco lead and fashioned it into a 35-10 advantage.
There was the perfect lead to Ricky Sanders on the first play of the second period that made it 10-7. It covered 80 yards and tied a Super Bowl record. Sanders would emerge with a Super Bowl record 9 receptions for 193 yards.
Next there was the 27-yarder to Clark in the corner of the end zone. Timmy Smith, who wound up with 204 yards in 22 carries (another Super Bowl record), went 58 yards on "counter gap" to make it 21-10.
Three offensive plays later, Williams artfully play-faked the same counter gap to Smith and dropped another package into the hands of the streaking Sanders. Finally, 64 seconds before halftime, Williams delivered an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Clint Didier.
By then the knee had stiffened to the point where he could barely walk. But, he said, "as long as I could stand and set up, I wasn't going to let any pain keep me off the field."
"That's exactly the way I saw it," Washington General Manager Bobby Beathard said. "I knew we weren't going to be able to get him off the field when he hurt the knee."
And now Williams was standing at a podium, amid a ganglia of cables and microphones, under a large tent, in front of hundreds of reporters. The Broncos were history. The significance of Williams' contribution to that chapter was the question of the moment.
"I don't know if it proves anything about black quarterbacks or not," he said. "That's not up for me to say. I'm not the judge. The pen is mightier than the sword."
"I hope this does a lot to make people look at people as players and not as color," Gibbs said.
Williams had awakened in his hotel room at 4 a.m. Sunday. He immediately opened his playbook and started reading. Kickoff was more than 11 hours away.
It was the best way he knew to avoid focusing on the social import of his role in Super Bowl XXII. He left that task to others.
"People have to stop seeing color and start seeing efficiency," Joe Gilliam Sr. had said during the two-week build-up.
Gilliam's son, Jefferson Street Joe Gilliam, would have been the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl in 1975 if a drug problem hadn't forced Steeler Coach Chuck Noll to replace him with Terry Bradshaw.
Williams said he didn't have any dreams during the four hours of sleep he managed to grab. Tying Bradshaw's Super Bowl touchdown pass record in one quarter never crossed his mind. Nor did the concept of quarterbacking his team to five touchdowns in an 18-play span.
"It certainly was the best I've ever seen him," Gibbs said.
"This is the best I've been," Williams confirmed.
"He amazed me," Denver defensive end Rulon Jones said.
"He's a class guy," said Bronco quarterback John Elway, after suffering through 14 completions in 38 tries, 5 sacks and 3 interceptions.
Even Dexter Manley was succinct about Williams' performance. "He's a comeback," Manley said.
He said a mouthful.
Cmp Att Yds TD Lg Int 18 29 340 4 80 1