James Harris is one of the names lost to sports history, until now. Harris is credited as being the first black player to start a season at quarterback in professional football, making his debut in the position for the Buffalo Bills in the American Football League in 1969. (He was not the first to start a game at quarterback, however, that distinction belongs to Marlin Briscoe, who went on to a career as a receiver. Joe Gilliam, Jr., singer Joi’s father, was the first to start an NFL game at QB, but his career was derailed by drug addiction.)
Harris, a former Grambling Tiger who played for four collegiate championships under legendary coach Eddie Robinson is featured in a book “Breaking the Line-the Season in Black College Football That Transformed the Sport and Changed the Course of Civil Rights” by Samuel Freedman” about Robinson and FAMU coach Jack Gaither. The two rival coaches played a role in the eventual desegregation of college football.
Now an executive with the Detroit Lions, Harris says that while it was a struggle for him to play during his pro football career, now Black quarterbacks are prized for their combination of athleticism and shot-calling skills.
“I think there are more and more coming,” Harris told the Tom Joyner Morning Show. “I’m real happy for the opportunity for Blacks to get a chance. It╒s getting to the point now where kids can dream of playing quarterback and it can become a reality. It wasn’t always that way.”
Harris played for the Los Angeles Rams and San Diego as well, but his career as a pro quarterback was curtailed by injury and racism as he was passed over for others that were deemed more acceptable if not more skillful. He paved the way for others like Doug Williams, who became the first quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl in 1988 for the Washington Redskins.
Williams was also coached by Eddie Robinson and is now the head coach at Grambling University.
“We feel very fortunate that we were at one time the only two Black starting quarterbacks and one of the reasons was Coach Eddie Robinson. He prepared us.”
Harris laughs when asked what he got paid compared to the starting Black quarterbacks of today. But Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Michael Vick are just some of the Black starting quarterbacks who at least owe Harris, Williams, Briscoe, Joe Gilliam, Jr., Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon, Dante Culpepper and the other pioneers at quarterback a thank you.
“There’s not a lot of interchange because I think the young players don’t really know our history or know us that well. But some of them we talk to and they are all nice young men having a successful career. But you pull for them and you’re fans of theirs and you╒re certainly happy that the game has come to the point where there are more and more opportunities to play.”
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
24 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. new new
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8. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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9. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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10. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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11. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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12. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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13. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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14. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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15. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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16. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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17. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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18. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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19. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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20. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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21. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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22. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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23. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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24. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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