Cam Newton, Heisman Trophy Winner: An Analysis of African-American Quarterbacks

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Cam Newton, Heisman Trophy Winner: An Analysis of African-American Quarterbacks
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Dec. 11, 2010: Auburn's Cam Newton accepts the Heisman Trophy in New York. He will now attempt to win the national championship.

Who is sexier—a running quarterback or a passing tailback?  I guess it depends on which Lingerie Football League female player is doing the running and passing.

It can be said the lingerie passing game sells tickets, but the tailback game wins championships.  Guess how many passing quarterbacks in college have ever won the Heisman Trophy?  The number will probably surprise you.  I’m guessing it won’t be as many as the number of running backs.   

The forward pass has had its issues with American football officials.  According to his biographers John Heisman, the honor’s namesake, was one of the first coaches to suggest legalizing it.  It was finally legalized in 1906 by the Rules Committee.

African-American quarterbacks and other position players have also had their issues.  Fritz Pollard was one of the NFL's top stars and the first African-American coach in the 1920s.     

I trust some of my readers have heard or read about the original “Bronze” Venus star, Josephine Baker.  She was an international superstar during the 1920s, a time when African-American quarterbacks were few and far between.  In some circles, I’m known as the man who nicknamed one of the Williams sisters “Bronze Venus.” 

What about the bronzed gods?  The outstanding young men who put God first and who excel at athletic competition?  In the football arena, they win a lot of accolades and player contracts.   

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Dec. 4, 2010: In Arlington, Texas, Cam Newton is carried off the field by his teammates. He led them to the SEC championship.

After 1926, though, the league contracted and there were fewer roster spots for bronzed gods.  Some writers call the NFL's period of missing African-American players from 1926 to 46 as the "black out."  I could call it the "bronze out," for lack of a better phrase. 

In 1938, Davey O’Brien from TCU became the first quarterback to win the cast bronze statue, the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award.  O’Brien threw for 1,457 passing yards—a Southwest Conference record that stood for 10 years.  He had only four interceptions in 194 attempts, and set an NCAA record for most rushing and passing plays.  

Due to O'Brien's singling out, the forward pass achieved national attention and recognition.

Last Thursday night, Cam Newton won the 2010 Davey O’Brien Award for the nation’s top college football quarterback.  On Saturday night, he became the last quarterback to win the Heisman—the 76th winner overall.   

Starting with O’Brien, 27 quarterbacks have won it, since it was born in 1935.  Given annually by the Heisman Trophy Trust, the recipients form one of the most exclusive clubs in the world.

Newton joined Andre Ware, Charlie Ward and Troy Smith in another very exclusive club.  The “Bronze Quarterback Club,” I’d name it.  They’re the only African-American quarterbacks who’ve won the Heisman Trophy.

In over 130 years of college football, African Americans have come a long way.  It took 26 years for the first African-American to win the Heisman (Ernie Davis, 1961).  

Ware won it in 1989 and became the first African-American quarterback to do it.  He shined at signal-calling for the University of Houston Cougars.  As a junior, he passed for almost 4,700 yards and threw 44 touchdowns.  He skipped his senior season and got drafted by the Detroit Lions.

The 1989 ceremony marked 54 years for the first African-American quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy.

Like Ware, Newton is a junior and a shot-calling quarterback.  There will be much speculation, many rumors and analogies going around about him following in Ware’s footsteps.  I won’t be so shallow to do that to a young quarterback—to compare him.

I will be shallow, and say I hope Newton makes the jump to the NFL before next season.  There will be too much piling on in 2011 for a young man to have to bear.  Trust me, declare for the NFL draft and get your money, Cam. 

Donate the dough to a good Christian cause and go on tour speaking—if that’s what you want to do.  I know about another Heisman-winning brother, who has done a lot of speaking in the name of Christian causes.

As a Florida State Seminoles quarterback, Charlie Ward was one of the smoothest pocket passers college football has ever seen.  Coach Bobby Bowden will tell you the same thing.  In 1993, Ward led the Seminoles to their first football national championship. 

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Nov. 13, 1988: Doug Williams uncorks a pass in Chicago's Soldier Field. Williams set a Super Bowl record for touchdown passes in a single quarter.

Like Allen Iverson, who was a superstar quarterback in high school, Ward skipped the NFL in favor of the NBA.  A member of Ward’s club played basketball in high school, but skipped it in college in favor of football. 

Troy Smith led the Ohio State Buckeyes to the 2007 BCS National Championship game.  Now the starter for the San Francisco 49ers, he was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.  Like Ware, Ward and Newton, he also won the Davey O’Brien.

In three games against the University of Michigan Wolverines, OSU’s main rival, Smith threw seven touchdowns.  With him calling the snaps, the Buckeyes won all three.  That made him the first starting Ohio State quarterback to win three straight against Michigan.

I hope today's quarterbacks understand there were others who helped pave the way.  “Jefferson Street” Gilliam, James Harris, Warren Moon and Doug Williams, for instance. 

Williams became the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl.  He is, perhaps, remembered for being the last “black quarterback.”

While quarterbacks were traditionally treated unfairly, players at other positions also faced discrimination and helped to overcome it.  They formed brainstorming teams until the NFL began seriously rehiring African-Americans in 1946.

Then they had to overcome the "black out" at the quarterback and linebacker positions.  Those positions were virtually reserved for the most "intelligent" players from Ivy League schools. 

Old South schools refused to admit African-Americans after the Civil War until the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. 

As I mentioned, 1989 marked 54 years for the first African-American quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy.  There have been two winners since 2006.  Future candidates could include Denard Robinson, Terrelle Pryor and Darron Thomas.

Someone could come from out of nowhere, like Newton did in 2010.  Thanks to his talented blessings, now African-American quarterbacks have won four Heismans. 

That's progress.  As a believer in more progress, I believe terms, like "black" and "white" should be eradicated as racial nomenclatures.

I also believe business progress is recognizing lingerie and female football is a perfect mix.  Kudos to the president of Lingerie Football League.  They have the hottest quarterbacks in the United States.  Now, how about some African-Americans females?  Bring Tyra Banks out of retirement if you have to.      

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