It was the University of Wyoming vs. New Mexico in War Memorial Stadium. The date was Sept. 4, 1982.
That's when Cowboy senior Craig Johnson lined up behind center and took the snap, thus becoming the first Black quarterback to start a game in Wyoming football history.
"I had no idea that was true at the time," Johnson, now in his 10th season as the quarterbacks' coach with the Tennessee Titans, said. "I thought I was just another guy going in there playing. The reason I picked Wyoming was because I knew they were going to allow me the opportunity to play quarterback for as long as I wanted to. I also liked the conference (the old WAC) with it being very wide open.
"At that time, the African-American quarterback was the exception and not the rule. I was fortunate in that I was kind of protected from that at Wyoming by my coaches."
That moment, 14 years removed from the infamous "Black 14" incident, is forever etched in the school's history.
Although the times have significantly changed and there are now many African-American athletes now quarterbacking college teams all across the country, Wyoming will field its second Black quarterback in a starting role Saturday when junior Robert Benjamin is at the controls of the Cowboys' new up-tempo, spread offense in the 2009 season opener with Weber State.
Benjamin was officially given the starting nod Monday when first-year head coach Dave Christensen released his updated depth chart. Benjamin was listed No. 1, while true freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels moved into the No. 2 spot ahead of senior Karsten Sween, who was at No. 3.
Johnson said he remembered a couple of unkind comments that were made and that he received his share of boos during his UW career, but it was more because of performance and how the team was doing than it had to do with race.
"From that standpoint, it wasn't any different at Wyoming than anywhere else," he said. "When you don't have a lot of success and there are high expectations, the fans let you know it, and they definitely let me know it. The biggest issue is if you have success and play well, they'll support you. And if you don't, it's going to be a tough environment regardless if you're Craig Johnson, Steve Young, Warren Moon, Robert Benjamin, or whoever it may be."
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