Cam Newton Could Become the Black QB Role Model That Michael Vick Never Had
In baseball, African-American players can look up to guys like Vida Blue and Hank Aaron, who broke down racial barriers in their sport. In boxing, fighters can point to Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali for inspiration. On the hardcourt, ballers grow up wanting to be like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, and Michael Jordan. When he won the Masters, Tiger Woods saluted all the great African-American golfers who came before him and were not allowed to play in the game's most important tournament.
Yet when you talk about all-time great quarterbacks in pro football, the names most enthusiasts throw out are Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath and Steve Young. No one mentions Doug Williams, even though the former Grambling State quarterback began his professional career in 1978 by guiding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to its first three winning seasons -- and then capped it off with an MVP performance in Super Bowl XXII while leading the Washington Redskins to victory.
Williams is the only black QB to win an NFL championship, but you don't see or hear Michael Vick, Vince Young, and Donovan McNabb saying they want to be like the guy who passed for five touchdowns in the second quarter, a Super Bowl record. They don't even aspire to be like Warren Moon, the former record breaker for the Houston Oilers who is enshrined in the football hall of fame in Canada and the United States.
There's a reason for that. Vick, Young, and McNabb have been pacified by the NFL's insistence that they be conventional quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. The irony is that Vick, Young, and McNabb have been widely criticized for playing the game the same way Steve Young, Montana and Staubach always did, with attitude and athleticism. The NFL's three most prominent black quarterbacks would have won a Super Bowl by now if the franchises they play for allowed them to use their speed and quickness that made them superstars in little league, high school, and college.
Instead, Vick, Young, and McNabb became complacent, allowing team owners, general managers, and coaches to tell them how they play the game -- by dropping back in the pocket like the "prototype" quarterback. All the franchises want these 6'4" 200 pound guys to play the star offensive position but only Brady, Manning and Rodgers have had success in the conventional quarterback system. But consider the success of Drew Brees, a 5'11" guy who has won a Super Bowl and recently broke Dan Marino's passing record as an example of the success African-American play callers could achieve.
That's why I'm rooting for Cam Newton, the electric Carolina Panthers rookie from Auburn. I believe Newton will become the first African-American to truly give younger black quarterbacks -- such as Baylor University's Robert Griffin III, this year's Heisman Trophy winner -- someone to follow.
Follow Campbell on Twitter @unclelukereal1.
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