College Football's Bumper Crop of Black Quarterbacks

By Lyons, Douglas C. | Ebony, November 1989 | Go to article overview

College Football's Bumper Crop of Black Quarterbacks


Lyons, Douglas C., Ebony


College Football's Bumper Crop of Black Quarterbacks

AFTERNOON football practice begins promptly on the campus of Notre Dame University, where even a summer thunderstorm fails to stop the work of a team many expect to repeat as national champions.

Ast the team's leader at quarterback Tony Rice ignores the rain. Calling a play, he rolls out of the pocket and threads a picture-perfect pass to his receiver just over the outstretched hands of a defender. Cheers go up from the onlookers lining the field. They know that their team's fortunes literally rest in Rice's hands. "He's special," says Notre Dame's Coach Lou Holtz. "With him, we'll be fine. Without him, I think I'd get out of coaching."

The quarterback is perhaps the most glamorous and revered position in sports. The very word epitomizes the endearing qualities of a triumphant field general: ability, brilliance, control, maturity and, above all, leadership. For years, the quarterback was seen as one of football's ultimate authority figures and a position very few Blacks were allowed to hold.

All that has changed. In recent years, the Black quarterback has gained ground and is no longer an oddity. The NFL currently has five Black quarterbacks among its 26 teams. Doug Williams of the Washington Redskins showed the sporting world that a Black quarterback could win big, leading his team to victory against Denver in the 1988 Super Bowl with four touchdown passes, which tied a league record. Warren Moon stars for the Houston Oilers and is one of the NFL's highest paid quarterbacks. The Philadelphia Eagles have two Black quarterbacks on their roster in Randall Cunningham and Don McPherson, and the league's quarterback of the future may be rookie sensation Rodney Peete of the Detroit Lions.

Blacks have also scored big in college football. At least 14 Black athletes will start this season at the quarterback spot for teams at predominantly White colleges and universities in the NCAA Division 1 program. Nine of them will lead powerhouse teams that were highly ranked in the pre-season polls, such as Auburn, Arizona, Houston, Michigan and Virginia. Two quarterbacks, Rice and Major Harris of the University of West Virginia, are candidates for the coveted Heisman Trophy, an honor given to the nation's best college football player.

The secret behind the success of these Black quarterbacks is simple: they can play and they usually win. cCoaches are plagiarists," says Tony Dungy, a former college quarterback and now a defensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs. "They look at what is successful. The more success the Black quarterback has, the more prone he is to be played."

This season, football fans can expect big-play performances from several Black signal callers. Besides Rice and Harris, the other Black quarterbacks are Reggie Slack, a junior at Auburn University; Ronald Veal, a junior at the University of Arizona; Quinn Grovey, a junior at the University of Arkansas; Darian Hagan, a sophomore at the University of Colorado; Travis Hunter, a senior at East Carolina University; Andre Ware, a junior at the University of Houston; Charles Price, a sophomore at the University of Nevada Las Vegas; Phil Vinson, a senior at New Mexico State University; Anthony Thornton, a junior at Ohio University; Shawn Moore, a junior at the University of Virginia, and Lionell Crawford, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin. …

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