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Raising the Roof

African-American quarterbacks succeed
ABC Sports Online


We no longer cast a second glance when we see a black quarterback in a college or professional football game. Many of the premier quarterbacks playing the game today are African-American. But not too long ago, they were few and far between.

Daunte Culpepper of the Minnesota Vikings looks to pass the ball during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Another of ABC Sports' "Raising the Roof" features will focus on the Vikings' Daunte Culpepper, probably the most successful black quarterback this season. Daunte's story is rich with the struggles and drama of growing up black in America. His mother gave birth to him in prison while she was serving a term for armed robbery, and gave him up to be raised by grandmother Emma Culpepper, who included him in her family of fourteen kids. Daunte overcame many obstacles growing up poor, and came through it with a drive and determination to succeed. We will also chronicle the ones who came before: Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to start in a Super Bowl, James Harris, the first to be in the Pro Bowl, and Marlin Briscoe, the first in the AFL.

Still, the best African-American quarterback story may be that of Willie Thrower (yes Thrower). He was the first black quarterback in the Big Ten at Michigan State, and in the NFL with the Chicago Bears in 1953. Seventy years old and living in relative obscurity in New Kensington Pa. Willie has a fascinating story to tell, one that few people have ever heard.

Analyst Jimmy the Greek's career ended when he told us what many people believed, that the black athlete didn't have the mental capabilities to be a quarterback. ABC Sports interviewed the reporter that got that interview with the Greek.

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