Updated: August 17, 2015

The Forgotten Signal Callers, Minority Quarterbacks


Gary Norris Gray-BASN-Staff Reporter

OAKLAND, CA. — Minority quarterbacks have had the same struggles as African American signal callers. Here are some of the great minority quarterbacks of the past and the future.

Roman Gabriel, 1962-1977- Los Angeles Rams- was an Asian-American quarterback of Filipino descent. Taking his team too many NFL Western Conference titles before ending his historic career with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Colts prevented Gabriel from playing in the Super Bowl.

This Los Angeles Ram was the tallest quarterback in the league at 6-feet-2. 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.

He should have been an Oakland Raider as he was drafted number one by the Black and Silver. In 1969 he led the Rams to the playoffs and became the Most Valuable Player and NFC Offensive Player of the Year.

New Head Coach George Allen took over from Harland Svare in 1966 and inserted Gabriel as the starter. The Rams went to the playoffs two years later and continued until his departure east in 1973.

In 1989 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Lastly he would move from the gilts and glamour of Hollywood and the stars to the streets of South Philadelphia and the Green Birds with hard hats.

Gabriel led the way for future Asian American quarterbacks.


Joe Paopao-1978-1990- British Colombian Lions, Saskatchewan Roughriders, and the Ottawa Rough Riders.  The Long Beach graduate played his whole career in the Canadian Football League. Paopao nickname was “The Throwing Samoan” because he threw it everywhere. He fit right into today’s NFL style.

He became the first Asian to be a head coach of a professional league team the B.C. Lions in 1996

After many other coaching jobs in the CFL on March 27, 2015 Joe Paopao was named offensive coordinator of the Simon Fraser University Clan football team in the NCAA‘s Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference

jack thompson

Jack Thompson-1979-1984- Cincinnati Bengals- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- also known as the Throwing Samoan. A star graduate at Washington State University as the Cougars became a power in the Pacific 10 Conference. Thompson concluded his college career in 1978 as the most prolific passer in NCAA history, throwing for 7,818 yards. He set Pac-10 records for attempts, completions and TD passes. He was all-conference three times and either first-team, second-team or honorable mention All-American three times. He is one of only two players in WSU history to have his number retired


Marques Tuiasosopo-1997-2008 – Washington Football Club, Oakland Raiders, and New York Jets

The University of Southern California graduate drafted by the Washington Football Club and the Minnesota Twins baseball team. He was the only player in NCAA history to pass for 300 yards and run for another 200 yards

Marques had to overcome the fact that he was the fourth drafted quarterback that year behind Michael Vick, Drew Brees, and Quincy Carter. Most of his career he would be the backup to Rich Gannon and Kerry Collins. He never got a chance to show the American public his quarterbacking skills.

Tuiasosopo would shine in a Monday Night Game in 2003 throwing  for 224 yards in the second half, a fete that at that time was a accomplishment.

Timmy Chang-2005-2006- Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, and Philadelphia Eagles

 timmy chang

University of Hawaii graduate drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 2005 That year, Chang also played in the preseason for the Detroit Lions but did not make the final roster. He then signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, who allocated him to the NFL Europe in 2006. He played for the Rhein Fire of NFL Europa for the 2006 season, in which he completed 50 of 89 passes for 656 yards, 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, while sharing playing time with Drew Henson. He was in training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2006, but was cut before the start of the regular season.

Chang moved north to the Canadian Football League and the Hamilton Bear-Cats in 2007. His last year of his career was with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2009. He returned to the University of Hawaii to coach and complete his bachelor degree.

In 2013 Chang became the offensive coordinator for the (HBCU)- Historically Black Colleges and University  Jackson State Tigers

Marcus Mariota- 2015- Tennessee Titans


The University of Oregon graduate and was drafted number one by the Tennessee Titians in 2015. Mariota guided the Ducks to the National Championship Game against the Ohio State University Buckeyes 42-10.

His career record at the Univ. of Oregon was a gaudy 36-5, freshman offensive player of the year, all conference first team, and Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP.

He threw six touchdowns against the University of California-Berkeley.

National Football League quarterback coaches stated that Mariota could start on any team because of the Ducks pro style offense. We will see another great minority quarterback .

 Rich Kan- 1985-1986- graduated from Dartmouth UniversitySan Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers


Kan made the final cut for both teams but never played. Blowing out his knee  at Dartmouth College his junior year  which forced this young man to think about another career early. He is now an Orthopedist Doctor in Hawaii


George Mira- 1964-1971– San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Colts, and Miami Dolphins

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-1959-1970 – The Washington Football Club, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, and Kansas City Chiefs

Flores 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 1979-83. Flores would go on to win Super Bowls XV (in Oakland) and XVIII (in Los Angeles).
Mexican-American Joe Kapp-1967-1971, -Minnesota Vikings-Boston Patriots- took his team to the Super Bowl IV 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 the University of California at Berkeley. He is credited with changing the Golden Bear colors to a darker blue, different from the other eight U.C. universities-lighter blue.

His Alma matter will live in college football lore with the famous five lateral- “THE PLAY”, for the winning touchdown against their arch rival 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 Napa County.

Jim Plunkett- 1971 – 1986 – was drafted by the New England Patriots, and played for the San Francisco 49ers, and Oakland Raiders.


He is the second Mexican-American to play in the Super Bowl. Plunkett won the Super Bowl in 1983.

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 deaf parents attended his games. It opened the NFL to the world of the deaf and disabled communities.

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-1999-2009- played for the CFL Calgary Stampedes, NFL-San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, ending his career with 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 Garcia is down and out he returns to the field with more fire than before.

He is now coaching with the St. Louis Rams.

tony romo
Tony Romo-2003-present – (real name: Antonio Ramiro) is currently playing with the Dallas Cowboys. He has become one of the new golden boys of the NFL. Romo has the skill to be a great quarterback. His mental state in big games causes Romo to make mistakes at critical moments of a game.

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

The Dallas Cowboys are expected to win the NFC Eastern Division this year.

mark sanchez

These Latino-Hispanic men of the past made it easy for University of Southern California standout quarterback Mark Sanchez- 2009-present- New York Jets-Philadelphia Eagles. The outstanding Trojan star had a record of 24-2 in Los Angeles.

The New York Jets traded up from the Cleveland Browns in 2009 and was Rookie of The Year. He joined Big Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers to go to the playoffs his first two years as a professional.

Sanchez cannot shake the image of the “Butt Fumble” two years ago after the snap he ran into the New York Jet center losing the football for an opposing team touchdown. This year he travels down the road from New York to Philadelphia. Mark will have a fresh start with a new coach and a new offensive system.


Marc Bulger-2000-2009- New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Rams and Baltimore Ravens.

Bulger was drafted by the New Orleans Saints from The University of West Virginia he graduated in 2000.  He was waived and waited for a team to pick him up. It never happened.

Bulger walked-on for the Atlanta Falcons and their taxi squad. The Falcons never signed him so he moved on to try another team, the St. Louis Rams and their taxi squad. He was signed in 2001 and played the majority of his career in the Gateway City. This young man did not start until 2002 when the St. Louis Rams went 0-5 at the start of the season. In 2003 he took a back seat to Kurt Warner until Warner could not produce a Ram victory.

So Bulger was a bouncing ball in St. Louis until his break in 2004 when the Rams release Warner.

He ended the year the Most Valuable Player in the Pro Bowl.

He reached 1,000 completions faster than any quarterback in NFL history. Bulger achieved this in 45 games, two games less than ex-Rams Kurt WarnerDrew Bledsoe and Peyton Manning needed 48 games, and it took Dan Marino 49.

The fighter would go down again to shoulder injury and future Ram quarterback Trent Green but new head coach Jim Haslet saw a bright future for Bulger and placed him at number one again in 2008.

In 2010 his career came to a close with the Baltimore Ravens as a backup to Joe Flacco.


One of my sports heroes encouraged many other Native Americans to watch Pac-10 football, not just USC football, was Native American Sonny Sixkiller at the University of Washington, Huskies.

Sonny Sixkiller is from the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Oklahoma

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. He tried out for the Los Angeles Rams in 1973 but would move on to the Canadian Football League and the Toronto Argonauts in 1974.


Sixkiller received a call from the new World Football League and the Philadelphia Bell in the summer of 1974. He ended his career with the Hawaiians as the league folded in October of 1975.


He made one last try with the San Diego Chargers in 1976. The Chargers did not sign him


Sam Bradford– 2010-Present- St. Louis Rams- Philadelphia Eagles

sam bradford

Bradford was the quarterback for the University of Oklahoma Sooners and is also from the Cherokee Nation. He was drafted in 2010 by the St. Louis Rams and he non-verbally let it be known that he did not want to play for the Washington Football Club because of its nickname. When asked the question he would reply no comment. The Washington Football Club passed up Bradford because they did not want this to become a political issue every weekend.

He was the model pocket passer that most NFL coaches wanted and looked for in the modern era quarterback.

Bradford suffered multiple injuries that may have hampered his skills running away from the pass rush.

Bradford was Rookie Of The Year in 2010 and has the record for most completed passes without an interception at 169 and the most completions by a rookie quarterback.

He tore his ACL in 2013 when he was hit on an out of bounds play. Then in 2014 re-tore the ACL and was sidelined the rest of the year.

Bradford was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in March of 2015 for Nick Foles. It will be interesting to see which quarterback will be number one in South Philadelphia. They have four quarterbacks at the start of the 2015 seasons.

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.

Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network on Disabled Community Activist. Email at

©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod



One Comment

  1. Ray Gonzales

    July 3, 2016 at 1:06 am

    You completely forgot Jim Thorpe, American Native who was College football All American and played professional football and baseball, and won Olympic gold medals in track and field long before anyone above were even born.

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