Grambling legend Doug Williams talks about significance of Mahomes, Hurts starting Super Bowl LVII

Grambling legend Doug Williams was the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl when he led the Redskins to a win over Denver in Super Bowl XXII in 1988. (Courtesy Photo)

By T. Scott Boatright

On Sunday, for the first time ever, two Black quarterbacks will start for their teams as the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles meet in Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona.

Grambling State legend Doug Williams was the first Black quarterback to start in a Super Bowl, leading the Washington Redskins to a win over the Broncos in Super XXII in 1988.

Williams is proud of the fact that Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts will be facing off and will hopefully put to rest any questions about the viability of a Black quarterback’s capabilities in the NFL.

When Hurts takes the field Sunday, he will increase the number of Blacks to start a Super Bowl to eight. Steve McNair (Titans, 2000), Donovan McNabb (Eagles, 2005), Colin Kaepernick (49ers, 2014), Russell Wilson (Seahawks, 2014 and ’15), Cam Newton (Panthers, 2016) along with Mahomes and Williams are all part of that field.

This will be the third consecutive Super Bowl start for Mahomes.

Still, with both starters on Sunday being Black, Williams admits the experience will be an emotional one. 

“This is a big moment for sports in America, and especially for Black quarterbacks,” Williams said of the upcoming Super Bowl on Sunday. “Two Black quarterbacks starting in a Super Bowl has never happened. That’s history being made. It’s something special.

“We had 11 Black quarterbacks starting in the NFL this season, and at least two rookies who will probably be starting next season, so I think that’s already no longer an issue. And now, hopefully this is going to put it all to rest — that it will become a normal part of the game not only for Black quarterbacks to be starting in the NFL but to also be leading their teams to the Super Bowl and winning.”

While Williams dreams of that day the subject matter won’t be of any issue to talk about anymore on any level, he also feels it’s important that people realize the significance of Mahomes and Hurts squaring off against each other in a Super Bowl.

“Hopefully one day the fact a quarterback is Black won’t be talked about anymore because it won’t need to be talked about anymore,” Williams said. “Some people ask why color has to be brought into it at all? But those people don’t understand what we as Black quarterbacks, and Blacks as a whole, have gone through to get to where things are today.

“So, at this point, with this being a first for Black Americans and Black quarterbacks with two starting against each other in the Super Bowl for the first time ever, this should be talked about. It needs to be talked about. And it should be celebrated. It shows that progress has been made and is still being made.”

But Williams also feels there’s still more progress that needs to be made in the NFL, starting on the sidelines.

There have only been four Black head coaches to lead their teams to the Super Bowl. Two of those, the Colts’ Tony Dungy and the Bears’ Lovie Smith, faced off in Super Bowl XLI in 2007 with Indianapolis winning 29-17. 

That pair were the first two Black head coaches in “The Big Dance.” Since then, only two Black head coaches — Mike Tomlin with the Steelers in 2009 against the Cardinals and Jim Caldwell with the Colts in 2010 against the Saints — have coached in a Super Bowl. 

Last season there were only three Black head coaches in the NFL on opening day. And for Williams, that’s a trail that still needs to be blazed and opened so that maybe one day, that won’t be an issue to talk about either.

“That’s the other problem we have to tackle in this league, a guy like (Chiefs offensive coordinator) Eric Bieniemy, who has interviewed for NFL head coaching positions so many times — there’s no question that he should be an NFL head coach,” Williams said. “And there are many others just as deserving.

“That’s the goal. We need more Black head coaches. We need more Blacks in NFL front offices. And that’s up to the individual (team) owners. It’s not a secret that it needs to happen. It’s kind of like, we’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go. But we’re going to get there. It’s going to happen. One day all these firsts will just be a thing of the past.”

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