In honor of the 25th Anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, we explore 10 African-American NFL quarterbacks who influenced the modern era of the NFL. while there have been many Black quarterbacks who impacted the game in some way, these are 10 that made significant contributions through statistical firsts or historical impact.
First, we must note and acknowledge a few names who were pioneers for black athletes in general, and also as professional quarterbacks in the years preceding the NFL/AFL merger. We also acknowledge a few players who played quarterback in the early years of the NFL as we now know it.
Fritz Pollard, according to most historical records became the first African-American player to throw a pass in professional football. In 1920, while playing for the Akron Pros, Pollard threw and completed four passes. The position of quarterback was an extension of running back in those days, and it could be argued that Pollard played half back or wing back at the time.
George Taliafero and Willie Thrower both started at quarterback in the 1953 season, Taliafero for the Baltimore Colts and Thrower for the Chicago Bears. Both men are credited by some accounts as the first Black quarterbacks to start a professional football game.
The new NFL was in its' infancy stage when Marlin Briscoe entered the league in 1968 with the Denver Broncos. Briscoe is credited as the first Black to start a game in the modern era NFL. Briscoe was followed by Joe Gilliam with Pittsburgh in 1972.
James Harris came into the league in 1974 with the Los Angeles Rams. Vince Eveans broke into the NFL in 1977 with the Chicago Bears. Evans' career spanned 20 seasons, and became known as a journeyman back-up quarterback.