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Rewarding Moments In Washington History: Doug Williams Becomes The First African American Quarterback To Play In And Win A Super Bowl

On Jan. 31, 1988, Doug Williams became the first African American quarterback to both start and win a Super Bowl. He earned MVP honors after setting a single-quarter Super Bowl record for passing touchdowns (four) and leading Washington to a 42-10 win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. (Washington file photo)

In today's Rewarding Moments In Washington History presented by Maryland Lottery My Lottery Rewards, we continue "A History of Firsts Inspiring the Next" series by looking back at Doug Williams' legendary performance in Super Bowl XXII on Jan. 31, 1988.

An 80-yard bomb to Ricky Sanders, a 27-yard loft to Gary Clark, a 50-yarder to Sanders and an 8-yard strike to Clint Didier.

"We scored 35 points in 18 plays -- that's execution at its very best," quarterback Doug Williams said of Washington's historic second quarter of Super Bowl XXII on Jan. 31, 1988. "Offensively, we were in a zone. It didn't matter who we were playing, they weren't going to stop us."

With Washington trailing, 10-0, to the John Elway-led Denver Broncos after 15 minutes, Williams put together one of the most prolific passing quarters in playoff history. He completed nine of his 11 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns -- the last of which was a Super Bowl record -- as Washington turned a double-digit deficit into a 35-10 blowout. By that point, the Broncos were finished. Washington ended up winning its second of three championships under Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, and Williams was named the Most Valuable Player.

When discussing the evolution of the African American quarterback, Williams is one of the most important trailblazers. He was the first to be selected in the first round of an NFL Draft in 1978, and about a decade later, he became the first to play and start in a Super Bowl. Only then did Williams orchestrate a legendary second quarter -- a defining moment in NFL history.

Perhaps the biggest person responsible for helping Williams continue to break the mold was Gibbs. As a member of the Buccaneers coaching staff in 1978, he was the only NFL coach to visit Williams at Grambling, where Williams threw for 8,441 yards and 93 touchdowns over four seasons. That led to the Buccaneers drafting Williams 17th overall.

Eight years later, with Williams out of a job after playing in the United States Football League and Gibbs a championship winning head coach in Washington, Gibbs called Williams and asked for him to be the team's backup quarterback. All of the sudden, the two were reunited.

Williams made just one appearance in his first year and entered the 1987 season as the backup to Jay Schroeder. But after Washington went 11-4 during a strike-shortened season, Gibbs inserted Williams as the starter entering the postseason. Two wins later, Williams led Washington into the Super Bowl.

The pressure of being the NFL's first African American quarterback to play in a Super Bowl did not phase Williams. Neither did falling behind to one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history.

Williams wanted to make a statement for himself and all of those who came after him, and it took just 15 minutes of game action to do so.

"You knew Doug wasn't going to run from anybody," Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green told The Undefeated for a story commemorating the 30-year anniversary of Super Bowl XXII. 'The whole thing about being the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl, some guys couldn't have handled that pressure. But not Doug. Doug is going to stand right there in that pocket. That's his game. But the way he came back and did it after going out … it was incredible. The way it unfolded, man, it was like a movie."

"Obviously, that was the second straight [Super Bowl] that was very disappointing for us," Elway added, "but Doug played a great game. If someone else had to win it, you'd like to see a guy like him win because of how hard he worked."

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