The Forgotten Signal Callers

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: February 8, 2009

Tom Flores

Tom Flores

CALIFORNIA — Minority quarterbacks have had the same struggles as the African Americans. Here are some of the great quarterbacks of the past and the and future players. This will be the conclusion of the series of reports on the National Football League.


Roman Gabriel, (No. 18, Los Angeles Rams) was a Asian-American quarterback of Filipino descent took his team to many NFL Western Conference titles before ending his historic career with the Philadelphia Eagles.

This Los Angeles Ram at 6-feet-2 was the tallest quarterback in the league at that time. He was very difficult to tackle because of his size and weight. This big tall man would give us a glimpse of the future at the quarterback position.

Gabriel would lead the way for players like Timmy Chang (University of Hawaii).


George Mira “The Matador” was the first Latino quarterback in the National Football League. Mira started his career in the late 60′s with the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Miami Dolphins.

Mira played for the Montreal (CFL) Canadian Football League team and Birmingham Americans of the World Football League. Growing up in New Jersey, Mira was the role model for many African American and Latino youngsters who wanted to be quarterback in the tri state area.

Tom Flores, (Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, and Kansas City Chiefs), was the first Latino American quarterback and first Latino Star in the American Football League. He also was the first Latino head coach for the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks.

After serving as an assistant in Oakland, he became the head coach for the Silver and Black in 1970. Flores would go on to win Super Bowls XV (in Oakland) and XVIII (in Los Angeles).

Mexican-American Joe Kapp, (Minnesota Vikings-Boston Patriots), took his team to the Super Bowl Four in 1971. They lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. He was the ultimate football warrior playing in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders and British Columbia Lions before entering the NFL.

He is most famous for coaching at and changing the light blue colors of his alma-mater University of California at Berkeley. He is credited with changing the Golden Bear colors to a darker blue, different from the other UC universities-lighter blue.

His team will live in college football lore with the famous five lateral- PLAY for the winning touchdown against the Stanford Cardinal. True to his fighting spirit, he filed an anti trust lawsuit against the NFL when the Vikings traded him to Boston. He lost in court but won many football fans hearts.

Now retired, Kapp lives in the Northern California wine country of NapaCounty.

Jim Plunkett played for the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, and Oakland Raiders. He is the second Mexican-American to play in the Super Bowl. Plunkett won the Super Bowl while a Raider.

He was the No.1 overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft for the New England Patriots. He left them after many years of being beat up by defensive linemen.

A man of strong will, anybody else in his position in New England would have given up and walked away from the game. A sign language program was instituted into the NFL because Plunkett’s disabled parents attended his games. It opened the NFL to the world of the deaf community.

Plunkett continued playing because he wanted that Super Bowl ring. Success was achieved while playing for the Silver and Black. He was the first minority to be named Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XV, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10.

Jeff Garcia played for the CFL Calgary Stampedes, NFL-San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, and recently the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Garcia won the Grey Cup in 1997. He has played in the NFL playoffs with the 49ers, Eagles, and Buccaneers. Garcia never really fit into the teams quarterback plan for the Cleveland Browns or Detroit Lions.

He languished on the bench for almost two years. A gritty football player with heart and soul. Whenever you think he is down and out he returns to the field with more fire than before.

Tony Romo (real name: Antonio Ramiro) is currently playing with the Dallas Cowboys. He has become one of the new golden boys of the NFL. He has yet to win any playoff games. Romo has the skill to be a great quarterback. His mental state in big games causes Romo mistakes at critical moments of a game.

He is one of the first players in the league from EasternIllinoisUniversity. Romo sat the bench in Dallas until Bill Parcells became head coach. Parcells replaced veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe in 2006 with the young Romo.

These Latino-Hispanic men of the past will make it easy for University of Southern California standout quarterback Mark Sanchez to play in the NFL next year. The outstanding Trojan star has a record of 24-2.

Whichever NFL team drafts this young man, that team will improve immediately, because he already plays in a NFL style offense in Los Angeles. Sanchez already has the skills to read his receiver progressions at USC. This is the last thing most young quarterbacks learn in the NFL. Sanchez is way ahead of his time.


One of my sports heroes that propelled me to watch Pac-10 football (not just USC) was Native American Indian Sonny Sixkiller (University of Washington Huskies) who played in the early 1970′s.

Sixkiller changed the Husky football program from a running team to a passing team and took the University of Washington to many Bowl games. The NFL stated that he was too short for the league, yet Doug Flutie (Patriots, Bills) played with the same body type for many years.

So yes our Latino, Native American Indian (First Nation), and Asian American brothers have fought the same battle as our African American quarterbacks. These are a few of the outstanding minority quarterbacks of our modern era.