The 2023 NFL Combine has come to a close, but not without a notable rise in black quarterback hopefuls. A few are projected first round draft picks.
Bryce Young (Alabama), CJ Stroud (Ohio State), Anthony Richardson (Florida), Malik Cunningham (Louisville), Dorian Thompson Robinson (UCLA), and Hendon Hooker (Tennessee) were among prolific black quarterbacks participating in the scouting combine held at Lucas Oil Stadium, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The four-day, invitation-only event gives NFL scouts an opportunity to evaluate that year’s top draft-eligible college players on a range of medical, mental, and physical criteria, as reported by the NFL.
This historic moment for black quarterbacks at the combine comes on the heels of another historic moment this year in the NFL, with Superbowl LVII bringing for the first time ever, two black quarterbacks to the helm to compete for the prized Lombardi trophy in 57 years of the paramount game —Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes, starting quarterbacks of the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively.
A recent NPR article notes that Black quarterbacks are becoming more common in NFL games, thriving in a position once reserved exclusively for white men. Both Hurts and Mahomes acknowledged the opportunity fought for and road paved by previous Black quarterbacks that made it possible for them to have such a historic matchup.
“I think about all the rich history in this game, and to be part of such an historic event, historic moment, it’s special,” said Hurts to the media prior to the game.
“So many people laid the foundation before us, and to be playing with a guy like Jalen, who I know is doing it the right way, it’s going to be a special moment that I hope lives on forever,” commented Mahomes.
With great odds of playing in the NFL starting with college play stats and Combine performance, it is no surprise that many of the quarterbacks showed up and showed out, putting their hearts and talent on full display to deliver stellar stats and improve their draft stakes. Several of the 31 picks, including the presumed first draft pick from the Indianapolis Colts, focused highly on quarterback performance.
Bryce Young, despite his decision to forego participation in on-field drills and athletic testing- deferring to Alabama’s pro day on March 23rd, secured his position as No.1 pick, weighing in at 204 pounds. The Buckeye’s, CJ Stroud, also deferred athletic testing to Ohio State’s pro day on March 22nd but did an incredible job displaying his natural passing skills and accuracy.
Anthony Richardson was very impressive, at 244 lbs., 6’4” and still, at his size, able to complete a 40.5-inch vertical jump, a 10-feet-9-inch broad jump, and a 4.43-second 40-yard dash. Malik Cunningham completed 4.53-seconds in the 40-yard dash and a 1.51 10-yard split at 192 lbs. and 6’0″.
Dorian Thompson Robinson achieved a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash, a 1.51 in the 10-yard split, a 32.5 vertical jump and a 7.28 3-Cone drill at 203 lbs., and 6’2″. Hendon Hooker was not able to formally participate in Combine activities as he is recovering from an ACL tear sustained in a game against South Carolina last November, however the 6’3″, 217 lbs. player is still a contender for teams needing a stellar quarterback.
In the book, Rise of the Black Quarterback: What it Means for America, senior NFL writer for ESPN and columnist, Jason Reid, delves deep into the history of Black players in the NFL, as well as the complex history of racism within the league. From cherished Black quarterback pioneers, like Eldridge Dickey and Marlin Briscoe, subsequent trailblazers, Doug Williams and Warren Moon, to more recent signal calling stars like, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Colin Kaepernick and Patrick Mahomes, Reid’s work features the profiles and stories of prolific players of color whose efforts lent significant support to opening the door for other aspiring Black quarterbacks.
Many more Black quarterbacks have broken barriers for other aspiring Black quarterbacks. Rodney Pete, Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Russel Wilson, and others have been starting players on the field. Above all, they have changed the landscape of national football and opened doors once closed to some of the best and brightest in the nation.