Black quarterbacks have overcome stereotypes to make a big impact on the NFL. A chronology of African American quarterbacks in college and pro football since 1949:
1949--George Taliaferro of the Los Angeles Dons (All-America Football Conference) is the first African American quarterback in pro football. He goes on to play halfback for four NFL teams, the last being Philadelphia in 1955.
1953--Willie Thrower is the first African American to play in an NFL game. He gets in one game for the Chicago Bears, completing three of eight passes for 27 yards.
1955--Charlie "Choo Choo" Brackins plays in seven games for the Green Bay Packers.
1960--Sandy Stephens leads the University of Minnesota to a national championship (Associated Press). The next season Stephens becomes the first African American major-college All-American quarterback and finishes fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Stephens is a second-round NFL draft choice of Cleveland and the fifth overall selection in the AFL draft by the New York Titans. Both teams say that they won't use him as a quarterback and he never plays a down in either league. Stephens dies June 6, 2000.
1965--The first of three seasons that Jimmy Raye is quarterback at Michigan State. He leads Michigan State to two Big Ten titles and a 1966 Rose Bowl berth. He also plays in the "Battle of the Century" game against Notre Dame in 1966 that results in a 10-10 tie. Converted to defensive back in the NFL, Raye spends the 1969 season with Philadelphia. Raye is now offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs.
1968--Denver selects Nebraska Omaha's Marlin Briscoe in the 14th round of the NFL/AFL draft. Briscoe becomes the first African American starting quarterback in the AFL or NFL, passing for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns in 14 games. However, Briscoe is converted to wide receiver the next season and never plays quarterback again. Briscoe goes on to have a good NFL/AFL career as a wide receiver with 224 catches and 30 touchdowns for Buffalo, Miami, San Diego, Detroit and New England. He retires in 1976.
1968--Oakland selects Tennessee State's Eldridge Dickey in the first round of the NFL/AFL draft but takes Alabama's Ken Stabler in the second round. Dickey is eventually moved to wide receiver and plays sparingly between 1968 and 1971.
1969--Buffalo selects Grambling's James Harris in the fourth round of the NFL/AFL draft. In 1974, Harris takes over as the starter of the Los Angeles Rams and leads them to an NFC West title. In 1975, he leads the Rams to another division title, is named to the Pro Bowl and is the MVP of the game. He retires in 1979 after playing with San Diego. Harris is the Baltimore Ravens' director of pro personnel.
1970--Jimmy Jones is the quarterback of USC's "all-black" backfield, which includes running back Clarence Davis and fullback Sam "Bam" Cunningham. Jones leads USC to a 42-21 victory over Bear Bryant's "all-white" Alabama team. Jones never plays in the NFL.
1974--Pittsburgh selects Tennessee State's Joe Gilliam in the 11th round. In 1974, Gilliam, who became known as "Jefferson Street Joe" in drawing comparisons with "Broadway Joe" Namath, leads Pittsburgh to a 4-1-1 record after Terry Bradshaw is sidelined. After battling drug addiction, Gilliam flames out of the NFL by 1975, reappearing briefly with the Washington Federals of the USFL in 1983. Gilliam dies on Christmas Day, 2000.
1975--The Miami Dolphins draft Freddie Solomon in the second round after a record-setting career as quarterback at the University of Tampa. Solomon is converted to wide receiver and has fine career with the Dolphins and 49ers, catching 371 passes for 5,846 yards and 48 touchdowns before retiring in 1985. Solomon sees brief action at quarterback throughout his career,however, and completes five of 10 passes for 85 yards for the 49ers in 1978.
1977--USC's Vince Evans is selected by Chicago in the sixth round. Evans has a long career as a starter and backup for the Bears and Raiders as well as Denver and Chicago of the USFL. He retires a Raider in 1995 at age 40.
1977--After establishing most of the passing records at the University of Minnesota, Tony Dungy is undrafted and signs as a free agent with Pittsburgh. Dungy is converted to safety but plays in one game as a quarterback with Pittsburgh before retiring in 1979 after playing with San Francisco. Dungy is in his fifth season as head coach for Tampa Bay--one of two African Americans to currently hold the position in the NFL (Minnesota's Dennis Green is the other).