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6 little-known facts about the first black QB to ever win the Super Bowl.

Doug Williams was playing for more than just a championship ring.

6 little-known facts about the first black QB to ever win the Super Bowl.

"If I'm able to get up and walk, then I'm going to finish this football game, pain or no pain."

If you watch enough sports, that probably falls short of inspiring. Just another "work hard, eat pain" trope from another hungry athlete with championship dreams.


GIF from "Bedazzled."

But on January 31, 1988, that statement wasn't just hype, it was a matter of far-reaching legacy.

Those were the words of Doug Williams, the first black quarterback in NFL history to win the Super Bowl.

If you're not already familiar with this barrier-crushing athlete, here are six facts to put his sheer, 6-foot-4, 220-pound bad-assery in perspective.

1. Only one scout showed up to see if he had what it took to be a pro.

Doug Williams and Joe Gibbs in a 2013 interview. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Sirius.

Williams was a prolific four-year starter at Grambling with a winning record, leading the entire NCAA in passing one year and finishing fourth in Heisman Trophy voting. When no other scout took notice, Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Joe Gibbs saw potential in the young quarterback and decided to see for himself. After some time in the gym, on the field, and in the classroom during the athlete's substitute teaching gigs, Gibbs urged Tampa Bay to draft Williams in 1978.

2. He was the first black quarterback to be drafted in the first round.

Image from NFL Films/Ian Ward/YouTube.

This was in the league's "modern era," after the 1970 merger of the NFL and AFL to create the sport's preeminent organization. And in itself it was an historic accomplishment because it signaled to the growing league that it needed to get over its racial bias when it came to team leadership on the field.

ESPN's Greg Garber wrote: "Nobody said it out loud ... but there was once a widespread belief that African-Americans couldn't deal with the complexities of playing quarterback in the NFL. For years, black college quarterbacks were steered to other positions."

3. He defied career odds even before winning the Super Bowl.

Photo by George Rose/Getty Images.

The average NFL athlete's career lasts only six years (nine years for first-round picks). But going into Super Bowl XXII as a member of the team in Washington, Williams was already a 10-year veteran of pro football, with the aches and scars — as well as toughness and discipline — to show for it.

4. He had an emergency root canal the day before the Super Bowl.

This was not from the infamous Doug Williams root canal. But it seemed fitting. NFL Films/Ian Ward/YouTube.

Imagine the worst toothache you've ever had. Now imagine having it the day before playing in the Super Bowl and having to endure a four-hour dental procedure. And still playing. And winning. That was Williams. 'Nuff said.

5. A first quarter slip almost took him out of the game.

Photo by George Rose/Getty Images.

Denver had a 10-0 lead with only a few minutes left in the first quarter. In a near-fateful moment after a snap, Williams was dropping back to find a receiver when his right leg slipped from underneath him, causing a strain in his left knee.

It was so early in the game, and he was already hurt. Jay Schroeder took the reins for the rest of the quarter, but Williams refused to be counted out. He got up, shook it off, and launched a rally with an early second-quarter touchdown.

"If I'm able to get up and walk, then I'm going to finish this football game, pain or no pain," he said in a post-game interview.

6. Williams was the first black quarterback to start in a Super Bowl.

Photo by George Rose/Getty Images.

He wasn't even Washington's starter for most of the 1987 season. But through some wrangling and bittersweet luck with a 24-day players' strike, Williams found his way to the starting position.

It was not a decision to be regretted, as Williams ended up taking Washington to a decisive 42-10 victory over Denver in the Super Bowl, becoming the first black quarterback to win and be named MVP in the big game.

While plenty more black quarterbacks would follow the path Williams blazed, fans would wait another quarter-century to see a second black QB reach Super Bowl glory.

In February 2014, Russell Wilson and the Seattle squad reigned supreme, coincidentally, also over Denver.

Russell Wilson raises the Vince Lombardi trophy after winning Super Bowl XLVIII. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

On Feb. 7, 2016, Carolina's fun-loving Cam Newton will be the sixth black quarterback in 50 years to start in the Super Bowl, also coincidentally against the Denver Broncos. (Weird, right?)

If the Panthers succeed, Newton be the third black quarterback to boast the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy (and rock one of those god-awful rings).

But win or lose, Williams's legacy is plain to see.

The larger story of Super Bowl 50 is about the athletes, the teams, the fans, and (obviously) the commercials. What it's not about is race.

And try as the press may to persist tired and foolish narratives about the leadership ability of black quarterbacks, thanks to Doug Williams, it's now a lot easier for players like Newton to shrug them off and redirect them to the game.

Cam Newton. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.

Williams, who has expressed his support for Newton in that effort, spoke to the same issue in his heyday. His thoughts are as relevant now as they were almost 30 years ago, in sports and beyond:

"I think for me going to the Super Bowl and getting the opportunity to play is some of the dream that Martin Luther King was talking about," Williams told NFL Films. "Not so much black and white, but the fact that as an individual, as a person, and no matter who you are, what color you are, just get that same opportunity that everybody else gets."

Watch a grainy but inspiring profile of the great Doug Williams:


When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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