Why This Era Of Black Quarterback Excellence Is Here To Stay

In 1937, Wilmeth Sidat-Singh became one of the first documented African-American quarterbacks in NCAA history. 

His emergence in college football would eventually inspire and encourage many others to pursue the position, which is unequivocally the most revered in the sport. 

The prototypical Black quarterback displays impeccable lateral movement while accelerating sublime speed with the ball as if they’re an aggregation of a running back and wide receiver. It’s the utter opposite of how many White QBs perform by relying upon and exerting their throwing arms as offensive weapons. College Black QBs convey pure elation and zest to fans due to their playing style, which is considered unorthodox. 

Avid fans have witnessed exceptional and stellar talent over the last 87 years at the Division I level. From the Ivy League to the Big Ten, Black quarterbacks have made their marks as driven individuals who are striving for not only a secondary education but also a promising future, especially in the professional ranks.

The Era of Black Quarterback Excellence

But the spectacular exhibition fans have seen in the last 17 years is unparalleled. Nine of the preceding 17 Heisman trophy winners were Black quarterbacks, including the previous three  (Bryce Young, Caleb Williams, and current recipient Jayden Daniels).

  •       Troy Smith – Ohio State University (2006)
  •       Cam Newton – Auburn University (2010)
  •       Robert Griffin III – Baylor University (2011)
  •       Jameis Winston – Florida State University (2013)
  •       Lamar Jackson – University of Louisville (2016)
  •       Kyler Murray – University of Oklahoma (2018)
  •       Bryce Young – University of Alabama (2021)
  •       Caleb Williams – University of Southern California (2022)
  •       Jayden Daniels – Louisiana State University (2023) 

Only three of them have led their teams to national championships from 2006 to 2023 (Newton, Winston and Young). 

Although University of Florida’s Chris Leak was never a Heisman winner, he was the catalyst for the Gators’ 2006 national championship season. JaMarcus Russell was also another collegiate star QB who won a Sugar Bowl title for the LSU Tigers in 2003 and a Manning award in 2006.  

Undoubtedly, the 2010s were an eventful period for Black QBs in Division I football, the highest level of intercollegiate athletics. Besides Newton’s remarkable performance that guided the Auburn Tigers to the BCS title in 2010 as well as Winston’s championship run with the Seminoles in 2013, college football fanatics were introduced to new Black QBs who arrived on the FBS scene and established their marks for legendary programs. 

For instance, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett became a Third-Team All-American and First-Team All-Big Ten starting quarterback for the Buckeyes who won the national title in 2014. 

Clemson University’s Kelly Bryant and Deshaun Watson helped the Tigers two seasons later. Watson was also named as the CFP’s offensive most valuable player, including the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and Davey O’Brien awards as the nation’s best collegiate quarterback. Jalen Hurts steered the Alabama Crimson Tide back to national prominence as champions in 2017 and snagged a Sugar Bowl Outstanding Player Award while doing so.

Before joining the Chicago Bears, Justin Fields was the offensively gifted QB for Ohio State when the second-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten standout took them to the CFP national semifinal game. 

Patrick Mahomes, former Texas Tech University quarterback, set a record for total yards in a single game with 819 against the Oklahoma Sooners in 2016. In 2013, Keenan Reynolds (Navy) recorded an unprecedented season when he registered the most rushing touchdowns in a year (31), game (7) and career (88). 

Black QBs: The Now and The Future

This 17-year span is a valid testament to the fact that predominantly White head coaches wholeheartedly believe and put their entire faith in the hands of Black QBs to lead their teams to success. 

The majority of Blacks have played collegiate football as running backs, defensive backs, wide receivers and other positions.

According to sociologist Kyle Siler, “When a Black athlete plays football on a predominantly White team, they are quite likely to play a stereotypically Black position. For example, 30% of Black football players at historically White schools play defensive back, even though defensive backs only comprise 14% of Division I football rosters. There are also significant racial differences within the quarterback position. College recruits are distinguished between “pro-style” (passing-oriented) and “dual threat” (running and passing) quarterbacks. Of the 50 top-ranked pro-style quarterbacks by Rivals.com at the time of the study, 39 (78%) were White and eight (16%) were Black. In contrast, 31 (62%) of the top fifty dual-threat quarterbacks were Black, while 18 (36%) were White.” 

It’s as if head coaches fully recognize that Black QBs are cognitively brilliant and as highly intelligent as their White counterparts.

Despite their incredible rise, Black QBs have still been subjected to racial criticism and bias by White fans, tolerating pessimism coming from spiteful agitators. In a Bleacher Report article about his time as a Black quarterback at Alabama, Andrew Zow once said,

“You run into some people who always had something to say, depending on whether you won or lost. We had a bad loss. I don’t know why, but I went to the mall. A guy stopped me and was trying to tell me how to play. I was pretty upset with him. As a quarterback, it’s hard to go anywhere. And that was when social media wasn’t that big. These guys now are like rock stars.”

As for Black head coaches, they feel it is imperative to allow African-American QBs to lead their offense. NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Deion “Prime-time” Sanders named his youngest son, Shedeur, as the starter for the University of Colorado Buffaloes this past year.

This team appeared to be favored by Black celebrities as stars in the sports and entertainment industries attended their games like Lil Wayne, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Snoop Dogg, Wu-Tang Clan, Cam’ron, Cedric the Entertainer, Anthony Anderson, Dababy and many more. Current and former pro athletes have also out to support Primetime and his Buffaloes such as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Michael Irvin, Keyshawn Johnson and Terrell Owens. 

Despite posting a 4-8 record, the team gained immediate exposure to a wider audience of viewers during the first half of that season because most of their games were broadcast on major networks.

As we’re almost a quarter into the 21st century, diversity has impacted industries nationwide. Since the Civil Rights Act was signed into law nearly 60 years ago, African Americans have been in higher positions of power in business, athletics, media and more. 

The rise of Black NCAA Division I quarterbacks perfectly exemplifies that. Black QBs are gaining more acceptance and credibility in today’s society. From the looks of this influx, we can see that there will be many more of them in the future.  

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