When the Baltimore Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson with the 32nd overall pick in 2018, Jackson became just the 20th African-American quarterback selected in the NFL’s first round. The Draft that changed perceptions on the viability of the Black quarterback as a franchise player was the 1999 NFL Draft.
That year, five quarterbacks went in the first round, with three being African-American. Syracuse QB Donovan McNabb went No. 2 to the Philadelphia Eagles, followed by Oregon’s Akili Smith at No. 3 to the Cincinnati Bengals, and UCF’s Daunte Culpepper at No. 11 to the Minnesota Vikings. It was a watershed moment for Black quarterbacks.
While Smith was considered to be a bust, McNabb and Culpepper turned out to be two of the best quarterbacks of their era. With over 37,000 yards passing, McNabb ranks in the top 25 all-time in passing yards and is a six-time Pro Bowler.
A three-time Pro Bowler, Culpepper led the NFL with more than 4,700 passing yards in 2004 before a devastating knee injury curtailed his rising career.
Together, these players helped usher in the age of the dual-threat QB by dismissing the myth that Black quarterbacks have athleticism but can’t think critically or lead explosive pro-style, aerial offenses.
Check out the TSL vid and let’s take a walk down memory lane.