The NFL season officially kicks off tonight with the Ravens and Broncos squaring off on prime time.
This season, nine African-Americans will start at quarterback — reportedly more than at any other time in NFL history.
The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington just passed and the country reflected on the progress made (or not made) since the 1960s. It’s important to note that nearly 50 years ago, in 1967, there were no African-Americans at the quarterback position in the NFL.
Times have changed:
- Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
- Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
- Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders
- Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
- EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills
- Geno Smith, New York Jets
- Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
- Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
- Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Williams told NFL.com‘s Steve Wyche last year that attitudes surrounding African-Americans playing quarterback in the NFL has changed “tremendously” compared to his time in the league.
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In 1988, Williams became the first African-American to start as quarterback in the Super Bowl. He also became the first to win one, leading the Washington Redskins over the Denver Broncos and earning Super Bowl MVP honors.
The crop of quarterbacks this year are setting the pace in a league which has asked more of the QB position than ever before. The Kaepernicks , RGIIIs and Wilsons of the world can make plays with their arms and feet. Five African-Americans started at quarterback last season.
Colin Kaepernick leads a 49ers team he catapulted into the Super Bowl last year. Robert Griffin III returns under center for the Redskins after partially tearing both his ACL and MCL in his knee back in January.
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Josh Freeman is trying to get the Bucs over .500 after back-to-back losing seasons.
Three first-time starters, the Bills’ EJ Manuel, the Jets’ Geno Smith and the Raiders’ Terrelle Pryor are perhaps the biggest question marks heading into the season. Manuel and Smith were the among the first quarterbacks taken in June’s draft. Manuel showed promise in the preseason, before sitting out with a knee injury. Smith struggled, but ultimately the Jets were ready to move on from Mark Sanchez.
It’s finally time for football.