The History of Black Quarterbacks in the Super Bowl

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For the first time in NFL history the Super Bowl will have two starting Black quarterbacks and it’s Black Heritage Month…yes, you read that right! On Sunday, February 12 as Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs take on Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles on football’s largest stage, history will be made.

While we’re used to seeing Black athletes like Mahomes, Hurts, Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Justin Fields, Kyler Murray, Malik Willis, Trey Lance and the many others that came before them, thrive in a now more diverse and inclusive NFL, it wasn’t that long ago that Black men were robbed of the opportunity to play quarterback. The quarterback position is one of the most celebrated in football and when their feet hit that field, they’re lining up to not only take the snap but to lead their team and often to become the face of the of the franchise. Ahead of the Mahomes-Hurts matchup, we take a look at the history of Black quarterbacks in the Super Bowl, the barriers Black athletes have faced to reach the highest levels of the sport and the push for continued forward progress.

Who was the first Black quarterback to play in a Super Bowl?

Doug Williams the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl
Doug Williams was not only the first Black quarterback to play and win a Super Bowl — he was also the first Black quarterback to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Williams, a product of Grambling State University (an HBCU), was selected as the 17th overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on May 2, 1978. 

On January 31, 1988 Williams led Washington to a 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. The Zachary, Louisiana native finished 18-of-29 for 340 yards with four touchdowns, and one interception.

How many Black starting quarterbacks have played in a Super Bowl?

Entering Super Bowl LVII, only 7 Black quarterbacks have played in the Super Bowl:

  • Doug Williams – Won Super Bowl XXII
  • Steve McNair – Lost Super Bowl XXXIV 
  • Donovan McNabb – Lost Super Bowl XXXIX
  • Colin Kaepernick – Lost Super Bowl XLVII
  • Russell Wilson – Won Super Bowl XLVII and Lost Super Bowl XLIX
  • Cam Newton – Lost Super Bowl 50
  • Patrick Mahomes – Won Super Bowl LIV, Lost Super Bowl LV

Black Quarterbacks that Blazed the Trail:

*just a few of the many 

Houston Oilers v Cleveland BrownsWarren Moon

Doug Williams - Washington Redskins - File PhotosDoug Williams

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans

Steve McNair

Philadelphia Eagles vs San Francisco 49ers - September 24, 2006

Donovan McNabb

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers

Michael Vick

Divisional Round - Seattle Seahawks v Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton

Denver Broncos v Carolina Panthers

Russell Wilson

Baltimore Ravens v Miami Dolphins

Lamar Jackson

New York Jets v San Francisco 49ers

Colin Kaepernick

Divisional Round - Indianapolis Colts v Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes

NFC Divisional Playoffs - New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Hurts

A Thinking Position

In the early 1950s through the 1970s, there was an abhorrent stigma suggesting that Black men lacked the instinct, intelligence, and leadership ability required to play quarterback — a “thinking position” — simply because of the color of their skin. Black athletes who had the skill, talent, work ethic, experience, and demonstrated history of success to play quarterback were often lured to the professional level but told they had to play another position to have a role in the league.

Imagine being hired for your dream job after spending years of your life mastering your skillset and honing your craft, only to be told you had to learn and fulfill a completely different role simply because people that look like you are not capable of performing well.

That was the case for Sandy Stephens, the first Black man to play quarterback at the University of Minnesota. After leading the Gophers to back-to-back Rose Bowls (1960 and 1961) and a national championship (1960), Stephens was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the second round of the 1961 NFL draft but was told he had to switch positions if he wanted to play in the league.

Jimmy Raye II helped lead Michigan State to a national title in 1966 yet had to line up as a defensive back–a position he had never played before–after he was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1968 NFL draft.

Tony Dungy–known for his trailblazing efforts to become the first Black coach to win a Super Bowl–was a two-time MVP quarterback at the University of Minnesota (1975 and 1976), yet was overlooked, undrafted, and had to sign as a free agent safety in order to make his dreams of playing in the NFL a reality.

Few were able to achieve long-term success in the league, whether at the quarterback position, a converted on-field role, or in coaching. There were so many others who succumbed to the grief of broken dreams and and the weight of unreasonable expectations.

Paving the way

Men like Stephens, Dungy, and Warren Moon — who was the first Black and first undrafted quarterback enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame — made cracks in the glass ceiling that Doug Williams was able to shatter so that Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes could play quarterback today and be recognized for their talent alone.

And if you think that we’re so far removed from that time period and way of thinking–we’re not. Strains of the same conversation were had in 2018 when critics questioned whether or not Lamar Jackson, who became the youngest player to win the Heisman trophy in 2016, would “have what it takes” to play quarterback in the NFL.

Sunday’s game isn’t just another Super Bowl. Let it be a reminder that no matter what you look like–you too are capable and worthy of thriving in every space you set foot in.

Black Coaches in the NFL Still Struggling for Opportunity:

While we’ve seen progress in the fight for diversity within the league, the effort to elevate Black coaches to head coaching positions is still an ongoing struggle. Check out this segment from NBC’s Brother from Another where Michael Holley and Michael Smith discuss the continuing hardships of black coaches getting opportunities in the NFL and whether there is hope.

RELATED: 2023 NFL Playoffs scores: Final bracket, recaps, results for every AFC and NFC postseason game

NBC Sports has a dedicated site to showcase content celebrating Black Heritage check it out here!

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft CB Rankings: Devon Witherspoon highlights loaded draft class


The 2023 NFL Draft is growing nearer, with just weeks remaining until teams make selections that could alter the future of their franchise forever.

A solid secondary is crucial to any team’s defensive prowess, and for the teams looking to tighten up in coverage, this year’s draft is the one to do so.

The 2023 NFL Draft cornerback class is an incredibly deep one, but which corner will be first off the board? Chris Simms unveiled his 2023 NFL Draft Cornerback rankings this week on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast, posting Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon at the top of his list of corners in this year’s crop.

But trailing Witherspoon very closely are four other potential NFL superstars, with Simms ranking Michigan’s DJ Turner at No. 2, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez at No. 3, Maryland’s Deonte Banks at No. 4 and Georgia’s Kelee Ringo at No. 5.

The 2023 NFL Draft will begin on Thursday, April 27, and end on Saturday, April 29. The first round will take place on Thursday with rounds two and three airing on Friday and rounds four through seven on Saturday. Click here for Simms’ quarterback rankings,and here for his list of top wide receivers.

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Simms’ Top Five CB prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft

Tier One

1. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

2. DJ Turner, Michigan

3. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

Tier Two

4. Deonte Banks, Maryland

Tier Three

5. Kelee Ringo, Georgia

RELATED: 2023 NFL Draft order: Complete list of every pick from Round 1 through Round 7

Simms Breaks Down 2023 Draft CB Rankings

The following are highlights from Simms’ CB draft rankings. For Simms’ in-depth analysis, read below for a breakdown on each prospect and be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

No. 1: Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

What Simms said: “This guy is must-see TV. He’s up there with one of the most twitchy, sudden people I’ve ever seen in my life to the point where when he takes off, you’re like, ‘Wait, is that real? Did he really get to full speed in half a step?’ … Bump or off, both are phenomenol —  it’s rare to have that. He’s got very good play strength for a guy that’s 5’11” and a half at 181 lbs. He doesn’t know that, he thinks he’s 220 … It’s efficient and easy. He’s sudden and can see the ability to accelerate whether it’s downhill or sticking the foot in the ground and changing direction. As compared to my No. 2 and No. 3 guy, he might be a hair tighter in his hips, but his twitchiness and explosion and acceleration … you just start to go, ‘What does this guy not have, besides the fact that he’s not 6’2” or over 200 lbs.’ He’s phenomenol.”

No. 2: DJ Turner, Michigan

What Simms said: “To me, (DJ Turner is) the most technically sound corner in the draft. There’s nobody better at technique. Like Witherspoon, the ability to mirror receivers at the line of scrimmage, the quick feet, it’s phenomenol. His hips are better than Witherspoon … His ability to flip those hips, turn and break on the ball, it’s right up there. It’s actually more smooth hip-wise than it is for Devon Witherspoon … What more can you say about the guy? Start-stop ability, amazing. Make-up speed, amazing. Other than Witherspoon, I think he’s put in the second-most tough spots out of anybody I’ve watched in this. He plays man-to-man, in your face a ton against big-time receivers. He’s awesome defending double moves. He could be the best nickel or outside guy, and he’s also the fastest guy in the draft. He’s got it all.”

No. 3: Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

What Simms said: “There’s not much to pick apart here … He’s got a little more size and meat on his bones. The Tee Higgins of the world, the bigger receivers of the world, they’re gonna have a harder time pushing him around and doing that stuff. He’s got incredible ball skills … He looks prototype. He looks Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey-ish in his uniform …  He just wasn’t as edgy as the other guys … He’s gonna match up better with DeAndre Hopkins than the other two. But I don’t know if he’ll match up better with Jaylen Waddle or Ja’Marr Chase than the other two … But his technique is real. He’s a top-20 pick. You talk size, technique and straight speed, of course this guy is one of the top corners in the draft.” 

No. 4: Deonte Banks, Maryland

What Simms said: “He has more measurables like Gonzalez. 6 foot, 197 lbs., there’s a thickness to him and a power and strength element that certainly jumps out. Let alone, speed is Real Deal Holyfield … man-to-man, great legs, runs easy … He’s comfortable in his speed. He’s never panicked. He’s comfortable in going, ‘You have a step on me? That’s fine, I’m good,’ … But he’s also incredible, like Witherspoon and Turner, at getting on top of people when they try to run a go-route. No one can ever really get around him for the most part … He’s sticky as hell, he’s got very good feet, but he doesn’t know how to use his hands at all yet. So he’s not really that great at jamming people at the line of scrimmage, but he’s never not there … I thought his ability to play the ball and create PBUs in those 50/50 situations where the quarterback tries to throw the ball back shoulder and all that, he’s got a great feel and vision to be able to cover and see the throw at the same time that I was very impressed with.”

No. 5: Kelee Ringo, Georgia

What Simms said: “When you turn on the film, you go, ‘What? This guy’s a corner, he’s not a safety?’ Because he has a prototype safety vibe … Against the bigger, straight-liner guys, nobody’s gonna push this dude around. That’s certainly not going to be an issue, that along with the straight speed. Hey, the change of direction stuff is not beautiful. He’s a little heavy-footed because he’s a bigger guy … but it’s not bad … When he opens up, he can really go; obviously with a 4.36 second 40 time … He’s very smooth as far as an athlete overall.” 

For more preview content of the 2023 NFL Draft, stay tuned to Chris Simms UnbuttonedProFootballTalk and NBC Sports EDGE for all the latest updates, player analysis and mock drafts.

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings: The top QBs, WRs, RBs, and more ahead of draft weekend


The 2023 NFL Draft takes place on Thursday, April 27 through Saturday, April 29 in Kansas City, Missouri. Click here for the full first-round draft order to find out when your team is picking.

Ahead of this year’s draft, Chris Simms has already started analyzing the top prospects by position on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. So far, Simms has revealed his highly anticipated list of the top 5 quarterback prospects and wide receivers. See below to find out who made the top 5 names for each position and be sure to check back for updates!

Be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for more on the 2023 NFL Draft as well as an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings:

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft QB Rankings:

  1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
  2. Bryce Young, Alabama
  3. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
  4. Anthony Richardson, Florida
  5. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA and Will Levis, Kentucky

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings:

  1. Zay Flowers, Boston College
  2. Jaxon Smith-Njibga, Ohio State
  3. Quentin Jonston, TCU
  4. Michael Wilson, Stanford
  5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

Chris Simms 2023 NFL Draft Cornerback Rankings

  1. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
  2. DJ Turner, Michigan
  3. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
  4. Deonte Banks, Maryland
  5. Kelee Ringo, Georgia

How can I watch the 2023 NFL Draft live?

ESPN, ABC, and NFL Network will air all seven rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.

What time does the NFL Draft start?

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft will get underway on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds two and three will commence Friday at 7 p.m. ET, with Saturday’s final rounds at 12 p.m.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Season and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!