(EDITOR’S NOTE: To listen to the Doug Williams interview, go to the following link: Megaphone: A Modern Podcasting Platform)
Super Bowl LVII is still doesn’t happen until next weekend, but it’s already historic. For the first time in Super Bowl history, two African-American quarterbacks start the game.
Patrick Mahomes vs. Jalen Hurts.
That’s a big deal. But it’s not as big as the first African-American quarterback to start the game … win the game … and be named its Most Valuable Player … all in the same afternoon.
Doug Williams, come on down.
The starter for Washington in Super Bowl XXII, Williams broke through a lot of barriers on Jan. 31, 1988 – overcoming an early 10-0 deficit … fighting through a painful knee injury … and passing for a Super Bowl-record four second-quarter touchdowns en route to a 42-10 rout of Denver.
It’s a performance that’s been recited over and over the past week, as Williams – now an executive with the Washington Commanders — was lauded by Mahomes, Hurts and a nationwide media for his contributions to today’s young African-American quarterbacks.
“It’s a respectable thing that it’s me,” Williams said on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast, “but when I hear that, I think about a lot of things. I think about the guys who came before me. I think about James Harris. I think about Marlin Briscoe and Joe Gilliam.
“All those guys didn’t get the chance. They didn’t have John McKay as a coach. Color didn’t matter to John McKay. It was about who could get the job done. That’s probably why he ended up being in Tampa. I think about that.”
Thirty-five years ago he was asked to think about his role as a pioneer. He’d been part of the first NFL game involving two black quarterbacks, a 1979 contest against Chicago and Vince Evans, and now was on the verge of making history in Super Bowl XXII. There must have been pressure. The only question was: How much?
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So we asked.
“When you say ‘pressure,’ “he said, “I look at how I grew up. I’ve been in an athletic family all my life. I’ve been competing all my life. And I’ve never been in a situation where I put pressure on me. I knew what had to been done. It wasn’t an individual game. It was a team game. If the team performed, you got to perform.
“So there wasn’t (any) pressure on me. I knew what was at stake. My job was to do what I had to do from a quarterback standpoint and not worry about what color I was. That was the most important thing. It was not to get caught up in the game and the color of my skin. I knew exactly who I was, so, mentally, I was prepared from that standpoint. It wasn’t (any) pressure. It was a matter of me going out there and executing.”
Which is exactly what he did. It took exactly 18 plays for Williams and Washington to drop 35 points on Denver and win its second Super Bowl seven years. Granted, it wasn’t all Williams. Running back Timmy Smith shredded the Broncos’ defense for a then-record 203 yards rushing. But Williams’ contribution overshadowed everything.
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He completed 18 of 29 passes for a then-Super Bowl record 340 yards, an average of 18.9 yards per completion. More importantly, he won. When the game was over, Williams said, he limped off the field and through a tunnel at one end of then-Jack Murphy Stadium. Then he stopped when he recognized a familiar figure in front of him.
It was his college coach. Grambling’s Eddie Robinson.
“We hugged each other,” Williams said. “We both started crying, and the first thing he told me … he said, ’Cat, you won’t even understand. Today was like Joe Louis knocking out Max Schmeling.’ I knew exactly what he was talking about because my Dad used to talk about that all the time.”
They’re still talking about it … as they should. Doug Williams made history, just as Hurts and Mahomes will make history again Sunday.
“So who do you like to win?” Williams was asked.
“I already won,” he said without hesitation. “Right now, it doesn’t matter to me. Because at the end of the day one of the young black quarterbacks is going to win.”
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