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Doug Williams on RG3: Climate has changed for black QBs
By Steve Wyche
Reporter, NFL.com and NFL Network
Published: Aug. 30, 2012 at 02:36 p.m.
Updated: Aug. 30, 2012 at 03:03 p.m.
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Five African-Americans will be starting at quarterback when the 2012 NFL regular season opens: Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles), Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks), Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins) and Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers).
Even though it's historic, it doesn't seem like that big of a deal.
That was the perspective of Doug Williams, who knows a thing or two about the topic. Williams was the first black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl, leading the Redskins over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII in January 1988.
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"Compared to 25 years ago or more, the climate has changed tremendously," Williams said in an interview on NFL Network's "NFL AM" Thursday morning. "When you talk about RG3, you don't say 'Black RG3.' You say, 'RG3.' Or, you say Josh Freeman. When you call their names, you don't put that adjective in front of them anymore."
"Back in the day ... when I went to Tampa Bay, I never was Doug Williams," continued Williams, who is now the head football coach at Grambling State, his alma mater. "I was always Tampa Bay's black quarterback."
In 1987, I was a student at Howard University, a historically black college in Washington D.C. I had no affinity for the Redskins, as was the case for the majority of the student body. The majority of us grew up in another part of the world and resided in D.C. for the sole reason of going to school.
Sports fans knew who Williams was from his days in Tampa Bay. Frankly, even though he played only in spots for the Redskins during the 1987 regular season, he was the reason we paid attention to the Redskins. There weren't five black quarterbacks in the NFL. Well, there were, but they were re-assigned to safety, cornerback, wide receiver or running back for the most part.
Black quarterbacks were very rare at the time. There was a sizable black fan base that hated the Redskins because they were the last team in the NFL to integrate. My grandfather, who lived a few hours away in Hampton, Va., was among that group. In fact, like so many blacks in the region, they adopted the rival the Dallas Cowboys as their team out of spite.
So when Williams was named the quarterback for the postseason and then got Washington to the Super Bowl, he generated a groundswell of bandwagon supporters that felt he was the ambassador to prove that blacks could start at quarterback and win a championship.
When the Redkins blew out John Elway's Broncos 42-10 in the Super Bowl, Williams became a legend in D.C. and across the country.
Two years and two weeks later, Robert Griffin III was born.
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Twenty-two years later, RG3 is hoping to do what only Williams has done when it comes to African-American quarterbacks -- start and win a Super Bowl. Griffin, now a Redskin himself, has reached out to Williams.
"I've had the opportunity to talk with him a couple times," Williams said. "I only had one NFL player's jersey in my whole life -- and I've lived a little while -- and that's a (Redskins) No. 10 jersey and that's Robert Griffin."
The story feels larger because four other African-Americans will be joining Griffin under center for their respective teams. We'll hear more about their ethnicity, I'm sure. Heck, I'm writing about it. But the clamor, disdain or celebration of it might not create much of a murmur compared to what Williams encountered.
Even if one of them gets his team to the Super Bowl.
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89