Marlin Briscoe of Omaha, First Black Pro Football Starter at QB, Dies at 76

June 28, 2022, midnight ·

Marlin Briscoe poses for a photo while looking to throw the football in his Omaha U uniform..jpg
Marlin Briscoe broke 22 records in his time at Omaha University including passing touchdowns (57) and passing yards (4,935) (Photo courtesy of UNO Libraries & Special Collections)

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Marlin Briscoe of Omaha passed away from pneumonia at age 76 in Norwalk, California. Briscoe’s daughter, Angela Marriott, informed the Associated Press of her father’s death on Monday. The former Omaha University standout was the first Black starting quarterback in professional football history.

“All you had to do was ask Marlin,” Roger Sayers said.

Sayers, former track star and older brother of late Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers, said Briscoe was always willing to help in the community.

“He would accommodate you,” he said. “And particularly anything dealing with Omaha, South Omaha.”

Sayers and Briscoe attended Omaha University together (later named University of Nebraska Omaha or UNO). Both men grew up in Omaha. Briscoe graduated from South High School, and Sayers graduated from Central High School.

Briscoe was taken 14th overall in the 1968 draft by the Denver Broncos.

In his rookie season, Briscoe became the first Black man to start at quarterback professionally. He started five games. He broke the Bronco rookie record with 1,897 yards of total offense and 14 touchdown passes.

Sayers said Briscoe faced more challenges than most Black athletes of the time.

“His challenge was a lot greater than ours,” Sayers said. “He had to break the barriers for something that had never been done before.”

The Broncos denied him the chance to compete for a starting quarterback spot after his rookie season.

He moved to Buffalo to play wide receiver. He won a Super Bowl with the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. He also played in a pro bowl. In 2016, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Among these accolades and others, Sayers said he’ll be well remembered as a role model and inspiration for Omaha.