Trailblazer: Willie Thrower

The National title in college football is the sport's most coveted prize.  It most cases it immortalizes a team's efforts of getting close to perfection, or sometimes just that.  Upon achieving this feat the most recognized and memorable player for each of these squads is the without question the quarterback.  In a grand total of 142 seasons of crowning a champion in college football, there are only seven teams who were led by a black quarterback.  Although the first title game was played in 1869, it wasn't until 1952 when Michigan State's Willie Thrower shared the quarterbacking duties with teammate, All-American Tom Yewcic, that led the Spartans to a consensus National Championship.  

Thrower played three seasons at Michigan State, and although he was widely regarded as the team's top passer, he competed for playing time throughout most of his career, and often came off the bench as the team's second-string quarterback.  However in 1952 Thrower was finally an integral part of the title run, completing 59 percent of his passes (29 of 43) for 400 yards and five touchdowns.

While Thrower's accomplishment is many times overlooked, to put it in perspective it took 36 years for another black quarterback to achieve this goal.  In 1988, Tony Rice led a Notre Dame squad to a 12-0 record over Miami to claim the eighth title in school history. And though the current 2013 season is still young, there are several prospective candidates who look the part and may indeed be next in line. Braxton Miller (Ohio State), Tajh Boyd (Clemson), Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), and Jameis Winston (Florida State) are all on track to make a deep run to get thier shot.  

Here is a list of the black quarterbacks who have captained their schools to a national championship:

Willie Thrower (1952) – Michigan State

Tony Rice (1988) – Notre Dame

Charlie Ward (1993) – Florida State

Tommy Frazier (1994, 1995) – Nebraska

Tee Martin (1998) – Tennessee

Vince Young (2005) – Texas

Chris Leak (2006) – Florida

Cam Newton (2011) – Auburn


Additional Facts about Willie Thrower:

  • – Thrower was the first Black quarterback to play in the Big Ten
  • – Signed with the Bears for $8,500 as a backup quarterback after going undrafted.
  • – Made history on October 18, 1953, when he became the first African-American quarterback to play in an NFL game. He completed 3-of-8 passes for 27 yards against San Francisco at Soldier Field on that day.