Moon Becomes First Black QB Elected

By Rick Starr
Updated: February 5, 2006

DETROIT – Warren Moon waited six years to play quarterback in the NFL, but there were no roadblocks on his trip to Canton.

Moon became the first black quarterback voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday when he was selected along with former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, former Raiders coach John Madden, the late Packers defensive lineman Reggie White, former Cowboys offensive lineman Rayfield Wright and former New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson.

They will be inducted Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio.

“To be inducted in my first year of eligibility is mind-boggling,” Moon said. “To be the first African American to be inducted as a quarterback, out of all the African American athletes who have played the game, is an honor. It is significant because it is a first.

“I don’t want to make this a racial thing, because that isn’t the case. This shows we have arrived at the pinnacle of our sport.”

When Moon arrived in the NFL in 1984, the only black quarterbacks who had been significant starters for their NFL teams were Shack Harris of the Rams and Doug Williams of Tampa Bay.

The late Willie Thrower of New Kensington broke the league’s color barrier at quarterback when he completed 3-of-8 passes in a game for the Chicago Bears on Oct. 18, 1953. There was no fanfare when Thrower began a legacy for minority quarterbacks. He died in March 2002 of a heart attack at the age of 71.

During his 17-year NFL career with the Oilers/Titans, Vikings, Seahawks and Chiefs, Moon passed for 49,325 yards and 291 touchdowns.

However, he had to play six seasons for the CFL and win five Grey Cups before convincing NFL teams to sign him as a quarterback.

Former players who were passed over by the 39 voting media members include Steelers defensive end L.C. Greenwood, Redskins offensive lineman and Steelers offensive line coach Russ Grimm, Vikings and Broncos tackle Gary Zimmerman, Bills running back Thurman Thomas, Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas, Redskins receiver Art Monk, Dolphins guard Bob Kuechenberg, Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin and Falcons defensive end Claude Humphrey.

Greenwood and Grimm were eliminated from consideration on the first vote, when the field of 15 finalists was narrowed down to 10.

A Steelers spokesman said Grimm had no comment because the team was making final preparations for today’s Super Bowl.

Telephone calls to Greenwood’s business were not answered.

White, who died in 2004, went to 13 straight Pro Bowls and was known as the “Minister of Defense.” He was an ordained Baptist minister.

“I wish he was here, that’s my only regret,” said White’s widow, Sara. “But you know what, he is. So take a little piece of the power of No. 92 with you because he’s definitely here with you and he was a powerful man in everything he did.”

Although Madden is best known for his popular football video games and for his work as a pro football television broadcaster, he was inducted as a coach. He won .759 percent of the games he coached in 10 seasons for the Oakland Raiders, including the 1977 Super Bowl.

Holding back tears at times, and waving his arms at other times, Madden said he was an emotional wreck when he heard the news.

“I’m shocked,” he said. “I’m not going to make a lot of sense and I’m not going to try because this comes from the heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Madden pounded his fist on the podium midway through his remarks while he was becoming emotional.

“Sometimes, you’ve just got to let it go,” he said. “It’s all about players, and I had great players who played hard and played well. If as a coach you ever lose sight of that, you’re way off base.”