Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pioneer Qbs Go in Opposite Directions

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pioneer Qbs Go in Opposite Directions

Article excerpt

Two small adjoining news items on the sports page reported separately on events Tuesday relating to two former football players. It was curious to see their names more or less linked in this fashion.

The players had both been National Football League quarterbacks, both from black colleges, and both of them with historical significance. But Doug Williams and Joe Gilliam went in opposite directions after their playing careers, one positively, one tragically.

Nine years ago this month, Doug Williams, from Grambling, became the first black quarterback to play in the Super Bowl, when he led the Redskins to a 42-10 victory over Denver. Yet it was 13 years before that, in 1975, that Gilliam, from Tennessee State, became the first black quarterback on a Super Bowl team, though he was a backup to Pittsburgh starter Terry Bradshaw and did not see action in that game, or in the Super Bowl the next year. Williams, 6 feet 4 inches, broad-shouldered and with a terrific arm, said before his Super Bowl that Gilliam was the one who "had helped open the door for me, and if you don't want to call it a door, say it's a wall." For a long time, the last place on a football team that one would see a black man was quarterback. Pro owners and college heads had been loath to have a black man as the anchor of their team, for fear white fans would not relate to them. They worried that white teammates would refuse orders from them in the huddle. And, finally, black quarterbacks were considered - "I know," said Williams, before the 1988 Super Bowl, "some people thought we weren't smart enough." All that has changed dramatically, though not completely. But colleges like Auburn, Louisiana State and Oklahoma have or have had black quarterbacks in recent years, as have many pro teams, and many of those ignorant fears have dissipated. Gilliam, goateed, spindly, 6-2, was an electric player who could run and throw and became the first black quarterback to emerge into the national spotlight. On a Monday night in 1973, before a national television audience, he started for the Steelers in place of the injured quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw and Terry Hanratty. …

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