Former Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Doug Williams discusses what’s next for league

‘We’re gonna have over half of the quarterbacks in the league playing football as a Black quarterback,’ Williams said

Doug Williams says the tide is turning in the NFL.

“I feel like in the next five to 10 years, we’re gonna have over half of the quarterbacks in the league playing football as a Black quarterback, and it’s not about the color of their skin. It’s about what they can do and how well they can play,” he said.

Williams was the first Black quarterback to play in and win a Super Bowl in 1988.

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But with the way the NFL draft is going and as more coaches give Black quarterbacks a chance, Williams said Florida’s Fourth Estate hosts Matt Austin and Ginger Gadsden he expects a majority of the quarterbacks in the league to be Black in the coming years.

Williams started his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1978. He told Austin and Gadsden he remembers what it was like being a Senior at Grambling State University with hopes of entering the NFL.

“There was a guy that was interviewing coach Robertson, and he posed the question to coach Robertson as to, ‘what would it take for Doug Williams to make it in the National Football League?’ And I know he had prepared himself for a long answer because coach Robertson can give you a long answer. I think coach Robertson hit him with one word, and that word was ‘opportunity.’”

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That opportunity came when the Tampa Bay Bucs drafted Williams in the first round.

The trailblazer said he was happy to play but also had to deal with a lot of negativity and racism.

“You know, I heard a lot of things during my five years in Tampa, about me being the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whether or not it was the color of my skin or the fact that I was smart enough to get it done,” he said.


Williams now works as a Senior Advisor for the Washington Commanders. He said he was at an owner’s meeting recently and someone asked him about what his mental health was like during that time.

He told Austin and Gadsden he leaned on his oldest brother and others in his network, calling them daily, to help him get through what he called “a tough situation.”

“ (Eventually,) I was able to handle it from there and not worry about what people say, or what people did, or what letter you got, and you read and stuff like that,” he said.

But Williams said there is one letter he got that he will never forget.

He said a nice, wrapped box came in the mail.

“There (was) a rotten watermelon in it and the letter that accompanied it says, ‘throw this to the end, they probably could catch this,’” he said. “That was something that would always stick with me, and I always remembered it. And there was no return address or anything. And from that day on any letter that I got without a return address, I did not open it. I just threw it in the trashcan.”

Williams said that’s not the only hate he faced on the path to stardom.

Before taking to the gridiron Williams said he played baseball.

While playing a game in Denim Springs, Louisiana, Williams said he, another Black player, his brother; who was also the coach, and his father, who was sitting in the stands, were the only Black people in the stadium.

“A couple of things transpired during the game where one of the players I was sliding home and he took his glove, catcher’s mitt, and he slapped me upside my head and the people in the stands was standing up clapping, saying ‘Yeah, that’s the way to do that N.’”

Williams said his next time up to bat his brother told him, “‘show them who you are’ and, you know, I hit a double off the wall.”

Later during that game, Williams said he was playing the infield and as the guy who slapped him approached third base. Williams took his glove and slapped him back.

Williams said the crowd was upset. While he was riding home four guys in a pickup truck rode up to the vehicle, he and his brother were in “bumper to bumper” only to realize “my Dad was behind us.” That’s when he said the group left them alone.

“It’s just stuff like that, that, you remember, you’ll never forget, and you just live with,” Williams said.

Despite those experiences, Williams said he also had a lot of great opportunities.

“I think I was lucky enough to go to an organization in Tampa, with a coach who — race wasn’t important to him, it was about the player. He had played a Black quarterback back in 1968, Jimmy Jones. So, I think Coach McKay, and Joe Gibbs, who was on that staff my rookie year, and you think about those guys, and you realize it wasn’t about color. They gave me an opportunity and it was my job to take advantage of it,” he said.

Since then, he said more NFL teams are taking the position his coaches in Tampa took.

“I think the mentality and the thinking of general managers and head coaches, and ownership has shifted a little bit to, ‘Hey, let’s get the best guy possible to play this position,” he said.

Williams said the league can still improve by giving more Black third and fourth-string players the opportunity to develop their skills on the field and give more Black athletes the opportunity to become coaches.

Hear more from Doug Williams on Florida’s Fourth Estate. You can download the podcast from wherever you listen to podcasts or watch it anytime on News 6+.

About the Author:

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.