Cam Newton leads the Carolina Panthers against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, February 7. When he steps onto the field he will become only the sixth African American starting quarterback in 50 Super Bowl games. Several African American quarterbacks have earned Super Bowl rings as members of NFL championship teams, but only two have won titles as starters. Until this year’s game, the five black quarterbacks who have started in the Super Bowl are Doug Williams, Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson.
Doug Williams was the first African American quarterback to win a Super Bowl. On January 31, 1988, the former Grambling star led the Washington Redskins to a 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII in San Diego. Williams completed 18 of his 29 passes and was named Most Valuable Player, to date the only African American quarterback Super Bowl MVP.
Williams and his Redskins put together a second quarter offensive explosion that still resounds to this day. Trailing 10-0 after the first quarter, they scored five unanswered touchdowns, four on pass completions by Williams to three different receivers, and went into half-time with an insurmountable 35-10 lead. As I told Williams in 2009, “Thanks for the most memorable hour of sports in history.”
Tennessee Titans’ Quarterback Steve McNair led the against St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on Jan. 30, 2000, becoming the second black QB to start in a Super Bowl. St. Louis built a 16-0 lead, but Tennessee tied late in the fourth quarter. The Rams took a 23-16 lead with three minutes left, and the Titans comeback fell one yard short. McNair completed 22 of his 36 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns as the Titans lost 23-16.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb led the Philadelphia Eagles against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX on Feb 6, 2005 in Jacksonville, Fla. McNabb completed 30 of his 51 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns, but the Eagles lost by three points, 24-21.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers against the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Feb. 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Kaepernick completed 16 of his 28 passes for 302 yards, but the Ravens won by three points, 34-31.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was the first African American quarterback to play in two Super Bowls. Wilson led his team to victory over the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2. 2014 in East Rutherford, N.J, becoming only the second African American quarterback in the history of the NFL to win a Super Bowl. The Seahawks defeated the Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII at Metlife Stadium in a rout eerily similar to Doug Williams’ victory in 1988. As of this writing, the Broncos have lost two Super Bowls to teams led by black quarterbacks by a combined 67 points.