Marlin Briscoe, first Black starting quarterback in pro football, dies at 76


HR King
May 29, 2001
Marlin Briscoe, who was the first Black quarterback to start for pro football in the United States, when he took the field for the Denver Broncos in 1968, died June 27 at a hospital in Norwalk, Calif. He was 76.
The cause was pneumonia, his daughter, Angela Marriott, told the Associated Press. He had been hospitalized with circulation problems in his legs.
Mr. Briscoe was a star quarterback for Omaha University before the Denver Broncos, then in the old American Football League, drafted him as a cornerback in the 14th round in 1968. He told the team he’d return home to become a teacher if he couldn’t get a tryout at quarterback.
Denver agreed to an audition, and the 5-foot-10 dynamo nicknamed “The Magician” nearly rallied the Broncos to victory as a reserve against the Boston Patriots before earning his historic start on Oct. 6.
Mr. Briscoe started five games that season and was runner-up for AFL rookie of the year after passing for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushing for 308 yards and three scores.
Despite his success, Denver Coach Lou Saban didn’t give him a chance to compete for the quarterback job in 1969, and Mr. Briscoe asked to be released. He then joined the Buffalo Bills, where he became a Pro Bowl receiver, catching 57 passes in 1970.
Mr. Briscoe’s roommate with the Bills in 1969 was James Harris. Mr. Briscoe helped prepare Harris to become a starting quarterback with Buffalo and later the Los Angeles Rams.
“It was at the time when Black quarterbacks were being denied, so you tried to make sure you were best prepared for the opportunity when it came,” Harris said. “I was a lot better off because Briscoe was my roommate.”
In 1974, while playing for the Rams, Harris became the first Black quarterback to win an NFL playoff game. He also was MVP of the Pro Bowl that season.
Meanwhile, Mr. Briscoe won two Super Bowls as a receiver with the Miami Dolphins and was a member of the 1972 Dolphins team that finished with a perfect season. But he never got over the fact that he lost his starting job in Denver without explanation.
“It bothered him,” Harris said. “Although he made the switch, he was disappointed. In order to still accomplish what he did under those circumstances — frustrated, disappointed — to be focused enough to be a high achiever at another position took a special makeup, a special guy.”

Marlin Oliver Briscoe was born Sept. 10, 1945, in Oakland, Calif. His parents divorced when he was young, and he moved to Omaha with his mother, who worked in a meatpacking plant.
Mr. Briscoe excelled at several sports in high school and played running back on a state-champion football team. At Omaha University (now the University of Nebraska at Omaha), he became the team’s starting quarterback and was an NAIA all-American. He threw 53 touchdown passes in college and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
He retired from football in 1976 after playing his final season with the New England Patriots. He settled in Los Angeles, where he developed a drug problem that landed him in jail several times.
He eventually became a coach and teacher before spending 12 years as a top official of the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club. A street near Mr. Briscoe’s old high school, Omaha South, was renamed in his honor in 2014.
Survivors include two daughters.



HR Legend
Gold Member
Oct 17, 2002
I remember him with the Dolphins...pretty good receiver for them. I knew he was originally a QB but never knew he actually started games for the Donks back in the day.


HR King
Gold Member
Sep 5, 2007
you can’t always get what you want!
I once watched Briscoe LIVE at Mile High Stadium, back in about 1968. Absolutely a dog-shit Pro game between the Broncos and the Dolphins. “Lyin’ Lou” Sabin was the Bronco Coach, I don’t remember who was coaching the Dolphins. It was a miserably forgettable game...but I think Briscoe led a 4th quarter comeback for the win. The Bronco fNswefe quite supportive of Briscoe...if I remember he was an accomplished scrambler.