Marlin Briscoe, the First Black Starting Quarterback in the American Football League, Dead at 76

·2 min read
FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2014, file photo, Marlin Briscoe stands in front of a street that was renamed for him in Omaha, Neb. The Pro Football Hall of Fame calls the Omaha, Neb. native the first black quarterback in the modern era of pro football. He opened the door for many, including Carolina's Cam Newton and Seattle's Russell Wilson, who both pay homage to him. (Kent Sievers/Omaha World-Herald via AP, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2014, file photo, Marlin Briscoe stands in front of a street that was renamed for him in Omaha, Neb. The Pro Football Hall of Fame calls the Omaha, Neb. native the first black quarterback in the modern era of pro football. He opened the door for many, including Carolina's Cam Newton and Seattle's Russell Wilson, who both pay homage to him. (Kent Sievers/Omaha World-Herald via AP, File)

Kent Sievers/Omaha World-Herald/AP

Marlin Briscoe, who became the first Black quarterback to start in the American Football League while playing for the Denver Broncos in 1968, has died. He was 76.

Nicknamed "The Magician," the legendary athlete died of pneumonia at a hospital in Norwalk, California, on Monday, his daughter Angela Marriott confirmed to the Associated Press. Briscoe had been spending his final days in the hospital after suffering from circulation issues in his legs, the outlet reported.

"He's made an immense contribution to the sport," Marriott told the AP. "I hope that he continues to get recognized for the contributions that he made. He was so proud of that achievement."

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock (7332995a) Marlin Briscoe Marlin Briscoe, receiver for the Miami Dolphins, is pictured Dolphins Briscoe
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock (7332995a) Marlin Briscoe Marlin Briscoe, receiver for the Miami Dolphins, is pictured Dolphins Briscoe

AP/Shutterstock

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The Broncos released a statement via Twitter after learning about his death, writing, "We are heartbroken."

"Marlin was a pioneer who shattered barriers, making history as the first Black starting quarterback in the Super Bowl era," the statement read. "He paved way for countless others and created an indelible legacy, including through our Marlin Briscoe Diversity Coaching Fellowship."

"Our deepest sympathies go out to Marlin's family, friends and former teammates," the statement added.

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Prior to being drafted by the Broncos at the age of 22, Briscoe played for Omaha University as their quarterback. The Broncos initially recruited him for the cornerback position but Briscoe managed to negotiate being considered for quarterback. After starter Steve Tensi was injured on Sept. 29, 1968, coach Lou Saban gave him a chance, and a week later on Oct. 6, he became the first starting Black quarterback in the AFL.

After the 1968 season, he played for the Buffalo Bills and eventually went on to win two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins.

In 2016, Briscoe was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. The Broncos later created The Marlin Briscoe Diversity Coaching Fellowship in 2021 to honor his contributions to the team, which he called "a great honor," per the Denver Broncos.

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On Monday, the NFL also paid tribute to Briscoe, tweeting, "We are saddened by the passing of legend Marlin Briscoe, who was the first Black starting quarterback in the AFL."

"Marlin was a pioneer of the game and his legacy will live forever," the tweet concluded.

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