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Many Super Bowls ago, a Black quarterback made history in San Diego

Photos from Super Bowl XXII on Jan. 31, 1988, are courtesy of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

San Diego never won a Super Bowl, but the city has hosted the game three times and, during Super Bowl XXII, history was made.

Washington's Doug Williams became the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl in 1988 — a game hosted at San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium.

Phillip Smith, a Washington fan, was 31 years old and stationed in San Diego during that Super Bowl. He couldn’t get a ticket to the game, but he said he got the next best thing.


“First time I saw, there was Doug Williams in that hotel. I had the Super Bowl XXII program," he said. "'Doug, can you please sign that for me?' ‘Sure.’ He signed it, gave it back. He shook hands. His hands were just — wow, very, very big.”    

George Whitfield Jr. is a quarterback engineer — he coaches quarterbacks. He was a preteen during that Super Bowl.

“Doug Williams for me in football terms — he may not be at the exact same table as Jackie Robinson, but he’s in the same lobby," he said. "He’s at the same set of tables, in terms of breaking through.”        

He said Williams’ win gave the Black community hope.

“Doug Williams, you got to do it at the biggest stage. He did do it at the biggest stage, not just cracked the door. His hands have been on that big heavy door for decades now," Whitfield Jr. said. "Now, there’s some other hands helping, but it was his two hands initially to push that through.”    


Smith agrees. He said the fact that Williams was a quarterback was also quite rare.

“I remember that, if you were a Black football player, no you don’t be a quarterback," he said. "You can run fast. You can catch. You might even be able to tackle, but a quarterback? Eh, not right now — but Doug Williams, he came in there and he did it.”

Super Bowl XXII ended with Washington scoring 42 points and Denver scoring 10. Williams won most valuable player and set NFL records. But more importantly he showed kids who look like him that they belong on the biggest stage in sports.

Super Bowl LVII starts at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. If you don't already have a place to watch it, here are a few options around town.