How James Harris paved the way for Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson

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During pro football’s 100th season, I’ll re-visit important games, plays, players and events from NFL history.

1969: James Harris becomes the first African-American to open a pro season as starting quarterback

Fifty years ago, Harris, an eighth-round rookie from Grambling who played under legendary coach Eddie Robinson, entered Bills training camp seventh on the quarterback depth chart in Buffalo. The previous year, Denver’s Marlon Briscoe became the first black starting quarterback in a pro game, but not at the start of a season. Harris, after the AFL-NFL merger a year later, became the first black quarterback to start an NFL season, in Buffalo in 1971.

We spoke not only about winning the Bills job a half-century ago, but also about how he feels now, seeing African-Americans Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson at the front of the class for the league MVP 50 years later.

“When I got drafted in the eighth round by the Bills, I figured I wasn’t going to play. I figured if I was a first or second-rounder, I’d have a real chance … but eighth? I didn’t really see the chance. But I decided to go and take my chance. Coach Robinson said, ‘If you go, don’t expect it to be fair. You’ll have to be better.’ So I figured, the only way to make it would be out-throw everybody, and come in totally prepared. I threw so many that summer. Maybe 50 deep outs a day. I was ready when I got to camp, because I didn’t feel I could have a bad day.

“The hardest thing for me, being from Monroe, La., and going to Grambling, was I never really talked to white people. And here I was, in a huddle with them. If I could just get to the passing part of it, I knew I’d be fine. But I get in the huddle and call the play, and all my linemen were white. That adjustment was tough. My first call, I call the play to both sides of the huddle, and I’m not looking at anyone, just saying the play. They said, “WHAT?” And I had to repeat it. That wasn’t easy for me. You’re fighting a lot of things people said about black quarterbacks at the time—we couldn’t lead, weren’t smart enough, worried about our character.

“The competition was rough. Jack Kemp, Tom Flores, Dan Darragh, Kay Stephenson—all established guys. I felt like I was fighting for a job every day. Every day, at 6 the next morning, they were knocking on the doors [in the players’ dorm]. Every day it could have been me. Training camp was long in those days—it started right after the Fourth of July. So every day, you wake up, lay in bed, and you hear the knocks. My room was in the middle of the hall. So you hear the knocks starting on one end and going down the hall. You’re just hoping, Skip my door. And they did—every day. Actually, one day they did knock, and I thought that was it. Turned out it was for my roommate. I got named the starter.

“First game was against Joe Namath, coming off the Super Bowl. It was in Buffalo. I’d been through quite a bit of fanfare already—people coming to the hotels, wanting to meet me, coming to the stadium early to see me. That day, I’ll always remember Joe walking across the field to find me and shake my hand, wish me luck. I appreciated that.”

Harris became the first black quarterback to start in the NFL for three franchises: the Bills (1971), Rams (1974) and Chargers (1977). In ‘74, playing for the Rams, he won a playoff game and made the Pro Bowl. He became a long-time scout and personnel official for several teams. Now 72 and living in Florida, Williams is thoughtful about the state of quarterbacking. I thought when I called him to talk about what happened 50 years ago, he might talk about how his career helped pave the way for black quarterbacks. But instead he said: “I can’t help but think about all the guys who didn’t get the chance. I mean, there were black quarterbacks who were really good back then—not just marginal guys who could make a roster, but good quarterbacks who could have started in the NFL for a long time if they got a fair shot.

“Marlon Briscoe was like Russell Wilson is today—he could have been every bit the player Russell is. Eldridge Dickey of Tennessee State [first-round pick by the Raiders in 1968 who got moved to wide receiver in his first training camp] was one of the best quarterbacks I ever saw. Could have been a lot like Steve McNair, only faster. David Mays of Texas Southern, Matthew Reed who followed me at Grambling—best high school quarterback I have ever seen, Parnell Dickinson from Mississippi Valley State, Roy Curry of Jackson State, Jefferson Street Joe Gilliam … all could have been NFL quarterbacks. All of them.

“When Doug Williams had the great Super Bowl he did [Williams threw for four touchdowns and was the Super Bowl 22 MVP], that impacted the next group of black quarterbacks. It was huge—he did it on the biggest stage. Then Warren Moon, playing well enough to make the Hall of Fame.”

I asked: “What does it mean to you that Wilson, Jackson and Watson might be 1-2-3 for MVP right now, and Mahomes might be in the running before the end of the year?”

“It proves only one thing,” said one of the singular figures in black quarterback history. “That it’s always been about opportunity.

“The black quarterback didn’t just come of age recently. We didn’t have the opportunity. As I’ve traveled around playing, scouting, meeting players, it’s always touched me: These guys, so many guys, didn’t get a chance to play because they were black. And I think, That could have been me. We all grew up, we dreamed of playing football, playing quarterback, and in the end, the dream became a nightmare for so many. Today, the dream is realistic. The dream can be fulfilled.”

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here

What to know about the 2023 Pro Bowl: Dates, how to watch/live stream info, AFC, NFC coaches, competition schedule, and more

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The 2023 NFL Pro Bowl will take place over the course of two days at Allegiant Stadium–home of the Las Vegas Raiders–in Paradise, Nevada. The excitement begins on Thursday, February 2 as NFL fan-favorites compete in a brand-new skills challenge featuring the following events: Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball, Lightning Round, Longest Drive, Precision Passion, and Best Catch.

Sunday, February 5 will feature the following: the Best Catch Finale, Gridiron Gauntlet, Kick Tack Toe, Move the Chains, and three seven-on-seven non-contact Flag football games between the league’s best players.

See below for additional information on how to watch the 2023 Pro Bowl as well as answers to all of your frequently asked questions.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

Who are the coaches for the 2023 Pro Bowl?

AFC Coaches:

  • Peyton Manning – Head Coach
  • Ray Lewis – Defensive Coordinator
  • Diana Flores – Offensive Coordinator

NFC Coaches:

  • Eli Manning – Head Coach
  • Demarcus Ware – Defensive Coordinator
  • Vanita Krouch – Offensive Coordinator

How will the 2023 Pro Bowl be different from previous editions of the event?

Rather than the traditional tackle football game, this year’s Pro Bowl will debut a skills competition and a non-contact flag football game.

How will scoring work?

According to the NFL, points will be calculated in the following way:

  • The winning conference of each skill competition earns three points towards their team’s overall score, with 24 total points available across the eight skills events.
  • The winning conference from each of the first two Flag football games on Sunday will earn six points for their team, for a total of 12 available points.
  • Points from the skills competitions and first two Flag games will be added together and will be the score at the beginning of the third and final Flag game, which will determine the winning conference for The Pro Bowl Games.

How to watch the 2023 Pro Bowl:

  • Where: Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada
  • When: Thursday, February 2 (7:00 PM ET) and Sunday, February 5 (3:00 PM ET)
  • TV Channel: ESPN, ABC, and Disney XD

When is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 takes place on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

Where is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 will be contested at State Farm Stadium–home of the Arizona Cardinals– in Glendale, Arizona.

What teams are playing in Super Bowl 2023?

The Philadelphia Eagles will face the Kansas City Chiefs marking the first time since 2017 that both top seeds qualified for the Super Bowl.


Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

Super Bowl food 2023: Appetizer, entrée, and dessert ideas for Super Bowl LVII inspired by the Eagles and Chiefs

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As the countdown continues toward Super Bowl LVII, the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs are getting their game plans set. But while they go over their plays, the rest of America goes over their menus in preparation for the big day. When it comes to the Super Bowl, everything is always the best — the best teams, the best performers and, of course, the best food.

But how can you impress your party in the kitchen while showing support for your favorite team? Let’s take a look at some iconic food from each of the Super Bowl team cities to prepare for Super Bowl LVII.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl LVII: Date, location, how to watch

Philadelphia Super Bowl food

Crabfries

Why have plain old fries when you could have crabfries? That’s exactly what Pete Ciarrocchi, the CEO of the legendary Philadelphia restaurant Chickie and Pete’s, said one day when creating this intriguing concoction.

While the name may be misleading, crabfries do not contain any actual crab, but rather a blend of spices and Old Bay seasoning that allow the dish to take on a subtle seafood flavor. Topped with a creamy, cheesy dipping sauce, the crinkle-cut fries are sure to take your taste buds to the next level.

Cheesesteak sloppy joes

It simply isn’t Philly without a cheesesteak. Keep it casual in your kitchen on Super Bowl Sunday with Katie Lee Biegel’s Philly Cheesesteak sloppy joes, an easy way to rep the Birds.

Can’t get enough of the cheesesteak? Bring some more Philly specials to the table with this cheesesteak dip, the perfect way to amp up your appetizer game and leave party guests feeling like they just took a trip to the City of Brotherly Love.

RELATED: Rob Gronkowski predicts Eagles to win Super Bowl LVII

Water ice

Is the action of the game heating up? Cool down with a classic Philly treat, water ice. First originating in Bensalem, Pennsylvania in 1984, the icy dessert is now sold in over 600 stores nationwide. The original Rita’s Water Ice shop, however, still remains open for business.

You can even show a little extra passion for the Birds by whipping up this green apple variation, sure to leave you refreshed and ready for the Lombardi.

Kansas City Super Bowl food

Cheese slippers

If you’re looking for a classy, yet authentic appetizer to bring to the table, there’s no better fit than the cheese slipper. This ciabatta loaf baked with melty cheeses and topped with seasonal vegetables and herbs has Kansas City natives hooked.

While the bread is typically baked to perfection by local shops, test your own skill level with this gourmet slipper bread recipe that you can complete with the mouth-watering toppings of your choice.

RELATED: How many Super Bowls have the Chiefs been to, won?

BBQ burnt ends

It’s rare to hear the words Kansas City without barbeque following short after. If you’re looking to impress your guests with your Super Bowl food spread, get out to the grill and start showing off.

While many cities in America know how to cook up some excellent BBQ, the combination of the sweet flavors and mouth-watering sauce has made Kansas City a hub for barbeque lovers for decades.

BBQ burnt ends, while a bit time-consuming, are  well worth a little elbow grease. The dish is also one of the few in Kansas City with a distinct origin story. The meal first found its creation at Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, a legendary African American restaurant in KC. Bryant originally made the burnt ends from the trimmings of pork belly, but since then, BBQ lovers have made incredible bites out of many styles of meat.

And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, try fixing up some classic Kansas City sides to pair with your entrée to perfection.

RELATED: What to know about Rihanna, the Super Bowl LVII halftime performer

Chiefs chocolate chip cookies

While there is no specific dessert that defines the Heart of America, you can still show your Kansas City pride with these ever-colorful Chiefs chocolate chip cookies.

Make sure to have your food dye handy, because the red and yellow hue of these cookies are sure to show everyone whose side you are on.

Or, if you’re feeling artistic, design an eye-catching Chiefs jersey out of the fan-favorite rice krispie treats. Whether you make Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce or Chris Jones, you’ll have the tastiest Super Bowl jerseys around.

How to watch the Super Bowl 2023 – Philadelphia Eagles vs Kansas City Chiefs:

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