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Marlin Briscoe, The AFL’s First Black Starting QB, Dies At 76

He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 1968.

Marlin Briscoe, who became the first Black starting quarterback in the American Football League, and a member of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, died on Monday (June 27)He was 76.

According to the Associated Press, Briscoe’s daughter Angela Marriott revealed her father passed away from pneumonia at a hospital in Norwalk, California. He had been hospitalized with circulation issues in his legs.

An Omaha, Nebraska native, Briscoe was a star quarterback for Omaha University before he was drafted by the Denver Broncos (at the time with the AFL) in the 14th round in 1968. Drafted as a cornerback, he informed the Broncos that he’d return home to become a teacher if he wasn’t permitted a tryout at quarterback.

Denver would oblige, eventually allowing the 5-foot-10 star, nicknamed “The Magician”, to nearly rally the team to a victory as a reserve against the Boston Patriots on September 29, 1968.

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He would earn the historic first start a week later.

“He’s made an immense contribution to the sport,” Marriott said. “I hope that he continues to get recognized for the contributions that he made. He was so proud of that achievement.”

Briscoe went on to start five games of the 1968 season and was named runner-up for AFL Rookie of the Year after passing for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns as well as an additional 308 yards rushing and three scores.

The following season Briscoe asked to be released after Denver didn’t give him a chance to compete for the starting job, while not offering an explanation as to why. He moved on to the Buffalo Bills in 1970 as a receiver who caught 57 passes for 1,036 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games, according to CBS Sports.

In 1972, he was traded to the Miami Dolphins where, while pairing with NFL Hall of Famer Paul Warfield and led the Dolphins in regular season touchdown catches as the team went undefeated that season. In 1973, he led the team in receptions as they won a back-to-back title in Super Bowl VIII.

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