This Day In Sports: Super Bowl history beyond skin color

January 31, 1988: Washington’s Doug Williams, the first Black quarterback to start a Super Bowl, goes 9-of-11 for 228 yards and four touchdowns, while rookie teammate Tim Smith rushes for 122 yards and a TD. All that in the second quarter in a 42-10 rout of the Denver Broncos. It was a head-spinning turn of events. Williams, who had endured a six-hour root canal the day before the game, twisted his right leg late in the first quarter and had to leave the field with the Redskins trailing 10-0. Then he returned early in the second period, and history was made beyond the color of his skin as Washington scored a record 35 points before the half ended.

The Redskins amassed a then-Super Bowl record 602 yards, while Williams finished the day with 340 yards passing and four touchdowns (all of those in the second quarter) and earned the game’s MVP honor. It was the second straight Super Bowl loss for Denver and quarterback John Elway, who had fallen to the New York Giants the year before. This time a players strike had affected the entire 1987 season, and three games midseason including mostly replacement players counted in the standings. Washington and Denver survived that.

What a journey it had been for Williams. He was a first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1978. Williams spent five years with the Bucs before bouncing to the USFL—and then back to the NFL in 1986 when Washington coach Joe Gibbs brought him in to back up Jay Schroeder. Williams rallied the Redskins to three regular season victories in 1987 after coming in for Schroeder—then he started and won Washington’s two playoff games. The landmark Super Bowl followed. He finished his NFL career in 1989 as a backup for Redskins QB Mark Rypien. Williams later had two stints as head coach at his college alma mater, Grambling.

By the way, Williams’ younger brother, Mike, was also a quarterback at Grambling. Mike was calling signals when the Tigers came to Bronco Stadium to face Boise State in the classic Division I-AA Playoffs semifinal in 1980, won by the Broncos 14-9. Williams said after the game the crowd of 17,000 was “louder than the Superdome,” where Grambling had played Southern before 70,000 fans a couple of weeks earlier.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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