Doug Williams: The First To Lead The Way

 Many people look to athletes as heroes because they live the life that many envy or because they have the talent that many wish they were born with. However the athlete that I consider a hero is a person that showed determination and leadership through a tough and what seemed as a doubtful career. The person that I consider a hero was the first quarterback of color to win a Super Bowl and he had to go on his own hero journey to end up in the Super Bowl.

 Doug Williams was drafted in the first round (17th overall) of the 1978 NFL Draft, chosen by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of Grambling State University. The Bucs, who had never been to the playoffs before Williams arrived, went to the playoffs three times in four years and played in the 1979 NFC Championship Game. Williams improved his completion percentage each year with the Bucs, but was regarded as the heart and soul of the team, and the driving force behind the winning.

However, during his tenure in Tampa, Williams was only paid $120,000 a year, by far the lowest salary for a starting quarterback in the league, and behind 12 backups. After the 1982 season, Williams asked for a $600,000 contract. Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse refused to budge from his initial offer of $400,000 despite protests from Coach John McKay. While Culverhouse’s offer was still more than triple Williams’ previous salary, he would have still been among the lowest-paid starters in the league. Feeling that Culverhouse wasn’t paying him what a starter should earn, Williams bolted to the upstart United States Football League. The next year the Bucs went 2-14, and they would not make the playoffs again for 14 years until after the 1997 season, and lost ten games in every season but one in that stretch. Many Bucs fans blame Culverhouse’s refusal to bend in the negotiations with Williams as a major factor. Culverhouse’s willingness to let Williams get away over such a relatively small amount of money was seen as particularly insensitive, coming only months after Williams’ wife Janice died of a brain tumor.

Williams quickly signed with one of the USFL’s expansion teams, the Oklahoma Outlaws. He would lead his team in passing completing 261 out of 528 passes for 3,084 yards and threw 15 touchdowns. In 1985, when his team moved to Arizona and fused with the Arizona Wranglers to become the Arizona Outlaws, Williams showed some improvement, completing 271 out of 509 passes for 3,673 yards with 21 touchdowns ending up with a 76.4 passer rating. However, his Outlaws’ just missed the playoffs with an 8-10 record.

After the USFL shut down in 1986, Williams returned to the NFL, joining the Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs, who had been the offensive coordinator at Tampa Bay when Williams was there.

Initially Williams served as the backup for starting quarterback Jay Schroeder, but after Schroeder became injured, Williams stepped in and led the Redskins to an opening-day victory against the Philadelphia Eagles. In the 1986 NFC title game Williams was sent in the game to sub for Schroeder and it would be one of three times in 1987 that Williams subbed for Schroeder and led the team to victory. Williams only started two games, 9/20 at Atlanta and 11/23 vs. the Rams. While both starts were losses, at the end of the season, when the Redskins qualified for the playoffs, Williams, with his 94.0 passer rating, was chosen as the starter. He led the team to Super Bowl XXII in which they routed the Denver Broncos, becoming the first black quarterback to play in a Super Bowl, and as of Super Bowl XLV, the only black quarterback to win one.

Facing legendary Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, Williams engineered a 42-10 rout, in which the Redskins set an NFL record by scoring five touchdowns in the second quarter. Williams completed 18 of 29 passes for 340 yards, with four touchdown passes, and was named Super Bowl MVP.

Doug Williams is one of my heroes because he is the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Many people do not realize it but there was a time where many people believed Africans Americans were not smart enough to play the position and many said African-Americans did not have the brain capacity to run an offense and be able to think at such a fast pace. As an African-American college quarterback I believe that Doug Williams proved that all those beliefs were false and from meeting him personally Doug Williams is a model person and a great role model for kids. He gives people like myself hope and he is living proof that anything is possible with hard work.


  1. #1 by urjg9gr on April 29, 2011 - 3:30 am

    This blog exemplifies a hero in every way. This athlete overcame adversity at its toughest state and managed to compete at a high level and with success. In comparison, a reader cannot help but to think of Jackie Robinson, baseball’s first African American player. Robinson started slow as Williams did but soon began to dominate his sport despite being the lone man of his race. Both of these men faced opposition beyond the awaiting defense of the pitcher on the mound. They faced an entire nation of racist, hateful Americans who were itching to rid “their” sports of these men. The success of Williams through adversity makes him the essence of heroism.

  2. #2 by Justin on May 5, 2011 - 9:54 pm

    Just a factual correction…Doug Williams was not the first quarterback of color to win the Super Bowl. Williams was the first black quarterback to win the Super Bowl, but Jim Plunket (a Mexican-American) was the first minority QB to win the Super Bowl. Plunkett led the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XV over Philadelphia and again in Super Bowl XVIII against Washington.

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