West Omaha Films to Release Movie on Marlin Briscoe, the NFL's First Black Starting Quarterback
OMAHA, NE – They are the legends of integration in professional sports. Like Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe and Joe Louis, Marlin Briscoe was a trailblazer, as the first black man to start as an NFL quarterback. Decades after, black athletes were a common sight on athletic teams of all types, the myth prevailed that an African-American could not successfully lead a football team as quarterback.
Marlin Briscoe proved the critics wrong. However, his rise to the top of the football world, becoming the first black starting quarterback, an all-pro receiver and a member of the only undefeated team in NFL history are only part of the story.
Actor John Beasley, Terry Hanna and David B. Clark, in cooperation with Marlin Briscoe, present “Third and Long,” the story of Briscoe’s rise to the top, his meteoric fall and his triumph over incredible odds to become the man he is today.
Briscoe, who attended Omaha South High School and the University of Nebraska at Omaha – Omaha University at the time – played quarterback for the Denver Broncos. He was given a shot at quarterback only because it was part of his NFL contract. Becoming quarterback for an NFL team is a tough challenge, but Marlin Briscoe had the added hurdles of racism and hatred to overcome. And he prevailed, excelling at the position and completing 14 touchdown passes during his first season, a rookie record that still stands today. After his successful rookie season, Briscoe went on to be an all-pro receiver for the Buffalo Bills and a member of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins.
After his football career was over, Briscoe’s struggles caught up with him. He fell into a vicious cycle of drugs, a lifestyle that put him at the barrel-end of a drug dealer’s gun, and eventually behind bars. But Marlin Briscoe took adversity head on, as he had done so many times in the past. He faced his addictions, his fears and his critics to become what he is today, a mentor to young people in Los Angeles. He coaches them about overcoming life’s barriers and the dangers of drugs.
Briscoe recounts, “Being a young kid growing up in the ’50s and ’60s in a racially divided neighborhood and playing quarterback in a mostly white environment are critical parts of my life story. At that time, blacks and whites had lot of racial disharmony.” Briscoe managed to forge ahead and do something he had dreamed of doing, despite being told he could never do it. “I think that’s why the story should be told.”
Beasley, also an Omaha native and a long-time friend who played college football with Briscoe, adds that the story needs to be told because “it’s important to African-Americans, football fans, and to the city of Omaha.”
“This project is a great opportunity for everyone involved with West Omaha Films and most importantly, the city of Omaha,” Beasley says. “One of our objectives is to promote Omaha, its people and the great things that come out of this city.”
Briscoe is also co-founder of the Field Generals, a nonprofit organization featuring black NFL quarterbacks, including greats such as Doug Williams, Randall Cunningham and 2006 NFL Hall of Fame inductee, Warren Moon.
“If any aspiring African-American quarterback had doubts, and saw Marlin out there playing, he saw the possibility of getting that same opportunity,” Moon says. “No question Marlin was a trailblazer for African-Americans who wanted to play quarterback.”
“I think his story is important to tell,” Moon adds. “The truth needs to be told about what we went through.”