American Football League’s first African American quarterback dead at 76

Sports fans were saddened this week to learn that the American Football League’s first African American quarterback passed away at the age of 76. 

According to the Associated Press, Marlin Briscoe died of pneumonia at a hospital in Norwalk, California on Monday where he was being treated for a circulation problem in his legs.

“He’s made an immense contribution to the sport,” said Briscoe’s daughter, Angela Marriott. She added, “I hope that he continues to get recognized for the contributions that he made. He was so proud of that achievement.”

“He was so proud”

James Harris was a teammate of Briscoe’s when both played for the Buffalo Bills, and he recalled the dedication Brisco showed in striving to become a quarterback.

“It was at the time when Black quarterbacks were being denied, so you tried to make sure you were best prepared for the opportunity when it came,” Harris told the Associated Press.

Harris explained that Briscoe had played for the Denver Broncos earlier in his career and had hoped to become the team’s quarterback but felt he had been held back because of his race.

“It bothered him,” Harris said of Briscoe’s reaction to the incident, adding, “Although he made the switch, he was disappointed.

“In order to still accomplish what he did under those circumstances — frustrated, disappointed — to be focused enough to be a high achiever at another position took a special makeup, a special guy.”

Briscoe offered inspiration

Heisman Trophy-winning receiver Johnny Rodgers told the Associated Press that he and his friends took inspiration from Briscoe’s achievements.

Rodgers also looked up to baseball Hall of Famer Bob Gibson and Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, noting that like them, he was a native of Omaha, Nebraska.

“We did know them, and because we did see them going further, it gave us hope that we could go further, too,” Rodgers said. “They paved the way.”

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