Revisionist HIS – Story, Part II
By Michael – Louis Ingram. Editor
PHILADELPHIA (BASN/BASN NEWSROOM): In Part One of this two – part column, assertions made by Mike Florio in a piece he wrote on ten moments he felt were pivotal to the integration of the Black quarterback were challenged.
The “highlights” spewed forth by Florio sought only to further diminish Black athletes, because, in my opinion, the column was part of a serving of patronizing tripe on the part of the author.
So first, let’s throw down on ten other moments that were casually left out of the discourse in how Black men were disrespected at the most analyzed position in team sports; and, in fairness, I will attempt to stay within in the lines of when Florio’s piece was posted (I could be wrong, but I believe it was 2006).
Because Black achievement has always been diminished by conditions (i.e. “Yes, but…”) I will throw in their codicils as well…
Stephens was the first Black man to play quarterback at the University of Minnesota and remains the only QB to take the Golden Gophers to the national championship in 1960, winning the Rose Bowl. In spite of that feat, Stephens was too Black for the Heisman. How many White QBs who are Heisman winners (or even runners – up) prove to be scrubs at the next level – but never thoroughly assessed because of their skin color?
The Cleveland Browns (NFL) and the fledgling New York Titans (AFL) drafted Stephens – but not to play QB; so Stephens left and played in the Canadian Football League for the Montreal Alouettes.
2. Jimmy Raye
In college, Raye was a star QB for the Michigan State Spartans from 1965 – 67; and was pivotal for the 1966 Spartans in the famous 10-10 tie with Notre Dame; often referred to as “The Game of the Century” for the national championship.
Too Black for the NFL, Raye was drafted as a cornerback and was co-opted into coaching. While Raye carved out a decent career as a coordinator and position coach, his skills in college meant nothing to the assholes that couldn’t stand the color of Raye’s skin.
3. Condredge Holloway
At the University of Tennessee, Condredge Holloway became one of the most dynamic players in school history, and off the field, he became one of the most respected.
In his three seasons (1972-74) as a starter, Holloway directed the Volunteers to three straight bowl games and an overall record of 25-9-2. He ended his career with the best interception-to-attempt ratio in Tennessee history, throwing just 12 interceptions in 407 collegiate attempts.
With his superior leadership skills, New England drafted him – to play cornerback.
So Holloway goes to Canada, where he becomes a star and wins a Grey Cup for the Toronto Argonauts (a year after Warren Moon’s five consecutive championships with the Edmonton Eskimos in 1984).
Holloway would eventually be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
4. Chuck Ealey
As the only collegiate quarterback in history to ever go undefeated and untied in his entire career (35 – 0 including bowl games) and the first Black QB to ever be selected First Team All – American by a mainstream publication (Football News in 1971), Ealey was only looked at as a defensive back at the next level by the NFL. “I was told that a team was looking at me to draft me, but it was out of my position,” recalls Ealey in an interview with this reporter for BASN in 2007.
“So I wrote a letter to the National Football League and said, ‘if you’re not going to draft me at QB – don’t bother’.”
Ealey’s intangibles and undefeated spirit were undesirable for the NFL because he was Black. So Ealey goes to Canada, and merely wins the MVP award and the Grey Cup…in his rookie season for the Hamilton Tiger – Cats in 1972.
By rights Ealey (who retired early due to injury after seven seasons) should be in the College Football Hall of Fame for doing what no other collegiate QB before or since has ever done. However, the literal browbeating of Ealey for his perceived impudence in believing he could play the position he was born to play is not a luxury extended to a man of color – and character.
It should also be noted the National Football Foundation, who decide on who gets into the College Football Hall of Fame, has engaged in a nebulous process over years which muddied the reasoning for why Player A, as opposed to Player B, gets in. Because Football News wasn’t recognized as a qualified source, Ealey remains ignored.
Simply put, whether the NFL admits it or not, their influence extends to their farm system – collegiate athletics.
5. Tracy Ham
A successful and charismatic field general out of 1 – AA Champion Georgia Southern in 1986, Ham was on a roll as soon as he came into the CFL in 1987 (they would say “he was too short” instead of “too Black” in an attempt to evolve the NFL’s “place – ism”) winning a Grey Cup with Edmonton.
Ham would also become the first pro QB to rush for 1000 yards in a season and consecutive seasons (1989 and 1990). In addition to a league MVP and two Grey Cup wins, Ham would lead the Baltimore Stallions to the 1995 Grey Cup, and make the Stallions the only U.S. – based team to win Canada’s national football championship.
Tracy Ham was welcomed into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
6. Damon Allen
To say he is Marcus Allen’s younger brother would do no justice to what Damon Allen has done for pro football.
Never mind his four Grey Cup Championships (with an unprecedented 3 different teams), MVP awards and his 72,381 yards passing (second all- time to Anthony Calvillo). Allen is third all – time in rushing in the CFL (11,920 yards rushing – 323 yards less than his Hall of Fame brother); and second to none in total offense generated – 83, 671 yards.
A two – sport star who chose football over pro baseball (pitched Cal State – Fullerton to an NCAA title), Allen was a standard bearer for a league that almost died and stayed to stabilize it as others like Jeff Garcia and Doug Flutie (who Allen defeated in 2 head – to – head Grey Cup matchups) would leave for the NFL. In a poll taken by Canadian sportswriters and football experts covering 185 selected players, Allen was rated #14 of the greatest CFL players of all time…
While Allen may be recognized as one of the greatest CFL quarterbacks ever, he is, without doubt, one of the greatest quarterbacks to play in any league, period.
7. Dameyune Craig
What is the NFL’s idea of a left – handed compliment? Try setting a world record…but being told you’re not good enough.
Such was the case of Dameyune Craig, who was the property of the Carolina Panthers after playing his college career in the bad ass South Eastern Conference at Auburn University. While contracted to play in NFL Europe for the Scottish Claymores, Craig threw for 611 yards in a game against the Frankfurt Galaxy on May 22, 1999.
Since NFL Europe had been used as a base for developing talent, one would surmise Carolina had something special to work with; however, that would not be the case. Instead of front page headlines, Craig had no future with the Panthers – or any other NFL team; yet his Claymores jersey hangs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for setting the American football record (the record for passing in a game was set by the CFL’s Matt Dunigan while playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers – 713 yards.)
You bet your ass had a White QB thrown for 611 yards he would be guaranteed a clipboard for at least a decade, and a constant deluge of Mouse Masturbation…at the very least!
Dameyune Craig: Good enough for the Hall of Fame…just not White enough for the NFL.
Few paths to success were as arduous as Joseph’s.In spite of leading McNeese State to two Southland Conference titles (don’t you say shit about ‘competition’ – Morehead State was no world power either, Phil Simms) and in spite of the fact this was the mid – 1990s, Joseph wasn’t given consideration at QB. Like Craig, Joseph went to NFL Europe and only won the World Bowl for the Dusseldorf Rhein Fire in 1998.
But unlike a Brad Johnson, no NFL team would take Joseph – as a QB. The Seattle Seahawks selected him to play free/strong safety, which he would do for four seasons.
Joseph would eventually go north to play the position he believed he was meant to play.
Merton Hanks, during the last part of a stellar career, played safety with Joseph while finishing his career as a Seahawk in 1999. “Solid player,” said Hanks in an interview with this reporter in reference to Joseph, “but a good a safety as he could be, he’s a far better quarterback.”
Joseph would eventually go to Canada, where after stints with a couple of teams, finally showed what he could do as he became the league’s Most Outstanding Player in 2007 – as the quarterback of the Grey Cup Champion Saskatchewan Roughriders!
Accounting for over 4700 yards of offense, Joseph threw for 24 TDs and ran for 13 more (737 yards rushing on 90 attempts).In a 2008 interview with this reporter, I asked Joseph about his journey. “It would have eaten me up inside if I didn’t give (playing quarterback) a full shot knowing what I felt in my heart I could do,” before pausing. “The CFL was truly the one league where I was given a real opportunity to compete.”
During the rest of his CFL career, Joseph was also able to achieve something done only by Allen & Ham – he was the third CFL QB to rush for over 1000 yards in a season.
When asked about how the years might have been different, Joseph was adamant about his ability. “I’ve always believed in myself, and would things had been different were I not a Black man playing quarterback? Of course – but that (Grey Cup) ring on my finger is but a reminder. When those record books show what I was able to do in spite of all the challenges put in front of me, it will speak for itself.”
9. Roy DeWalt
The Cleveland Browns drafted Dewalt in the 1980 Draft…but, of course, not at QB. Drafted as a running back, Dewalt opted to go to the CFL, signing with the B.C. Lions. Dewalt gained the starting spot two years later and the former Texas – Arlington star led the Lions to three consecutive Western Division finals, two Grey Cup appearances, and a CFL championship in 1985.
An injury in 1988 degraded Dewalt’s play and he retired soon after that season, but Dewalt’s won/loss record of 36 – 11 – 1 during his apex as the Lions’ pivot again screamed at the absurdity of him playing any position other than the one he was meant to play.
10. Casey Printers
Another undrafted quarterback, Printers went to the CFL in 2003 with the British Columbia Lions. While a backup, Printers replaced star QB Dave Dickenson after an injury.
All the former FAMU Rattler did was become the MVP of the league in 2004, accounting for over 5500 yards of offense, throwing for 5,088 yards, 35 TDs and rushing for an additional 9 scores. Printers led the league in completion percentage (65.8%) and still holds the all – time League record for passing efficiency in a game (90.9%)
After establishing himself as one of the CFL’s best (and politics between the team’s utilization of Printers and Dickenson costing the Lions two Grey Cup wins), Printers went south and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2006.
While attempting to make the Chiefs’ roster, Printers endured one of the most disgusting and dehumanizing slights ever put upon a professional player.
As part of a mini – series entitled, “Hard Knocks – Training Camp with theKansas City Chiefs,” Printers was released by Player Personnel director Ray Farmer in front of millions of cable viewers on the Home Box Office network. Told that if he could not be “Superman” (although something else seemed to be implied in the exchange), then he was of no use to the team.
That Farmer and the head coach at the time (Herman Edwards) were also Black made it a further slap in the face; because as stated in the conversation, Printers had “done everything asked of him” during training camp. Knowing Printers’ release and the reason for it being “unbelievable” belied the sheer animus shown by Chiefs’ management.
The QB Kansas City decided to keep was Tyler Thigpen (1 – 11 as a starter; 54.4 completion %; 21/18 TD/interception ratio; passer rating 72.5 – career stats provided by Pro – Football Reference.com)
Thigpen was surely not the first, but he is definitely one in a continuing series of sub – par White players chosen to man clipboards and take up space in a must – be – ready for prime time profession…
The symbolism of Black men leading or being perceived as leaders is not lost in the thought process, given our present political climate off of the sports field. On the gridiron, however, to imply a leader has to look the part (i.e., be white) is more an extension of who owns the team; and what they want to have as their embodiment of what said owner feels exemplifies what his or her team looks like to them.
Which brings us to the “Yeah, but…”portion of this piece; not that there has been a prevailing theme with our Field Generals here.
That many of these Black men previously mentioned found success in Canada had nothing to do with playing in an “inferior” league; they played in the league where the opportunity was presented for them to play the position they were supposed to play!
Out of the 10, eight played a significant amount of time in Canada. Of that group, seven played in a Grey Cup; six were Grey Cup winners.
Three men (Holloway, Ham, Allen) were multiple Grey Cup winners, six were league MVPs, and three (Allen, Ham, and Holloway) are members (or will be, in Allen’s case) of their League’s Hall of Fame.
And while Warren Moon’s multiple HOF status and five consecutive CFL championship rings merit a piece by itself, other men like Gilbert Renfroe, J.C. Watts, Joe Paopao, Marcus Crandall, Henry Burris, Danny Barrett, Khari Jones, Devin Durant and Kevin Glenn and Calvillo also came to Canada – and had success at the highest level.
Now when you weigh all those accomplishments against claims from tired old White men saying how “so – and – so should play defensive back,” how many Super Bowls slipped away from any NFL team – because of flat – out racism? How many scouts got it wrong because their owners said, “I don’t want a Nigger quarterbacking my team?”
However level you may consider CFL football to be, three Black men made it to their HOF – playing quarterback.
Shit, a .300 average in Major League Baseball qualifies you as a bona fide star; how the hell can the NFL justify missing out on this much talent by calling it anything but racism?
In between this time frame, so – called draft “experts” would squeal about how certain “athletic” types (read “Niggers”) at QB should try their luck across the border.
As late as last season, as the Muthafuckin’ Mouse tried to sell some horseshit they promoted as the “Year of the Quarterback,” Tyrod Taylor, an exceptional QB out of Virginia Tech, was constantly pressured to switch positions – and play at wide receiver because many NFL teams preferred him not to play at the most important spot.
Taylor was even told he would be drafted higher if he would switch positions. To the young man’s credit, he stuck to his guns and made the Baltimore Ravens roster as the second string QB, showing a high football IQ – and play making capability in a very limited time frame.
And fuck that nonsense about why a Black man hasn’t succeeded since Doug Williams’ MVP effort and Super Bowl victory.Can you imagine what must be going through the mind of someone like a Brad Smith, who set all the records he did – to play for the New York Jets, who accepted inferior QB after QB, and telling Smith, he could not compete for the quarterback spot?
Ironically, the highly – touted Blaine Gabbert, drafted by Jacksonville last year out of Smith’s alma mater (Missouri), has shown little of the ability that would make anyone think he could be an NFL QB, but it’s still early; Smith, however, has made a Pro Bowl…as a special teams player.
If Gabbert were Black, and Smith was White, we would not be having this conversation. If Gabbert was the best player at the position on the team, we would not be having this conversation – because “best man plays” – should always be the standard…
But if Smith is Black and is the best player; then he – and others like him – should have the opportunity to prove it.
Always outnumbered…never outgunned.
Copyright c 2012 Michael – Louis Ingram all rights reserved.