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“You are an African-American quarterback. You’re going to be judged a little different sometimes…Don’t believe the stereotype. Don’t believe them.”
Doug Williams, former Redskins quarterback and Super Bowl XXII MVP, shared that wisdom with young Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones yesterday as part of ESPN’s “Trailblazers: Past, Present, Future” series, celebrating Black History Month and its impact in sports.
Sitting alongside of anchor Jay Harris, Williams, the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, shared stories and gave out some sage advice to Jones, fresh off an improbable run leading the Buckeyes to a National Championship victory.
The discussion began, however, by examining the impact of Jones’ infamous tweet, which showed disdain for attending classes, a few years ago.
“You didn’t think it was a big deal, but you were in school, while you were coming to school,” Williams said. “We understand the football part of it, but at the end of the day, if you’re not eligible you can’t play anyway. Therefore, it should have never been out there when you look at it.
“The good thing about it, a couple weeks ago, when you announced you were coming back to school, I think whatever you tweeted out there a couple years ago should be put to rest. You let them know that school is important.”
Williams related to Jones more about being a backup quarterback, itching for a turn at the starting job, and shared a story about his mentality joining the Redskins.
“When I got to Washington in 1986, Coach Gibbs called me after the USFL had folded and he said ‘Could you come to Washington and be a back-up?’ and at that time I didn’t have job,” Williams said. “So I called Coach Gibbs and I said ‘Coach Gibbs, I can be any ‘up’ you want.’ So when I went to Washington I was the backup. Not in my mind, because I know who I was. I felt like I should be the starter. But I understood the dynamics of how that works. So I never went to practice with the fact that I was the backup quarterback. I went to practice with the fact that I was the starter.”
Williams also shared the impact, to this day, that the Redskins’ Super Bowl victory had on his career and how it affected so many people who watched him play.
“As I traveled, I ran across a lot of older men, especially African-American men,” Williams said. “They look at me and they say, ‘I still got that tape,’ and they say, ‘When I’ve got a bad day, I pop that tape in, it makes me feel good.'”
Harris shifted the conversation to race, wondering about how the dynamics have changed for two players who grew up and played in different eras. On the field, both testified their skin color was never an issue. It was the people away from the team that made things more difficult.
“When I got to Tampa in 1978, I got some mail at times and if there wasn’t a return address on the envelope, it was best not to open it,” Williams admitted. “The color thing doesn’t come in the locker room or the huddle. I never played with a guy who didn’t want me to play with him. When I walked off the field from the Super Bowl in 1988, Joe Jacoby walked up to me and he said, ‘Hey, Doug Williams, white, green, purple, yellow, you’re our quarterback.’ That’s a good feeling.”
Watch both segments of the feature here.
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