Marlin Briscoe, First Starting QB In Pro Football, Dies At 76
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Marlin Briscoe, First Black Starting Quarterback In Super Bowl Era, Dies At 76

Marlin Briscoe stands next to his statue during the September unveiling at the University of Nebraska Omaha's Baxter Arena. (Image: U of Nebraska Omaha)

Marlin Briscoe, the first starting quarterback in the American Football League, who later won two Super Bowls as a receiver with the Miami Dolphins, died Monday.

The New York Times reported that Briscoe was hospitalized outside of California, where he died from pneumonia. Briscoe made history in 1968 with the Denver Broncos when he became the first Black quarterback to start in the Super Bowl era

A university photo of Marlin Briscoe, who graduated from then-Omaha University in 1967, one year before it officially became the University of Nebraska at Omaha. (Image UNebraska)

Marlin Oliver Briscoe Jr. was born on Sept. 10, 1945, in Oakland, California, to his father, Marlin Sr., and mother, Geneva Briscoe. His family relocated to Omaha when he was young and Briscoe grew up in a housing project that also produced legendary Black athletes Gale Sayers and Bob Gibson.

Briscoe played quarterback in college for the Municipal University of Omaha (now the University of Nebraska) and was an excellent passer and runner. He set 22 school records, including passing for 5,114 yards and 53 touchdowns.

He was drafted by the Broncos in 1968. However, White coaches at the time thought Black players were incapable of playing quarterback. After the starting quarterback was injured and the backup wasn’t playing well, Broncos Head Coach Lou Saban made Briscoe the starting quarterback.

Briscoe set a rookie team record, throwing 14 touchdowns and rushing for 308 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games. He earned the nickname “The Magician.”

Despite his success that season, the Broncos did not let him compete to be the quarterback the next season. Briscoe asked for his release and joined the Buffalo Bills, where he switched to wide receiver.

“All I wanted was a chance to showcase my skills,” Briscoe told the New York Times in 2014. “It was a mirror of what the ’60s were about, particularly in the African-American community. We said, ‘No, this is what we want,’ so it was easier for me. If it had been in the ’50s, no way in the world would I have done that. But I grew up in the right time to express myself.”

Briscoe played for the Bills for three seasons. In 1970, he caught 57 passes for 1,036 yards and eight touchdowns, earning a Pro Bowl nod. Two years later, Briscoe signed with the Miami Dolphins and was part of the NFL’s only undefeated season as the team won the Super Bowl. Briscoe and the Dolphins won the Super Bowl in 1973 as well.

“The Magician” played for three more teams before retiring from the NFL. He is survived by his two daughters, Marriott and Rebecca Briscoe.