Marlin Oliver “The Magician” Briscoe was a football quarterback for the American Football League (AFL) and National Football League (NFL). When the Denver (Colorado) Broncos drafted him in 1968, Briscoe became the first African American Quarterback in professional football to start on a football team.
Briscoe was born on September 10, 1945, in Oakland, California. His family relocated to Omaha, Nebraska, and Briscoe attended Omaha South High School, where he played on the football team that won the state championship as a running back. After graduating from high school, Briscoe attended the University of Nebraska, Omaha, and played for the football team, the Mavericks, as a quarterback. During his time with the Mavericks, the team had a 27-11 record and three conference titles. Briscoe graduated in 1967 and entered the 1968 NFL Draft. The Denver Broncos took him in the 14th round.
The Broncos originally wanted him to play the cornerback position, but he negotiated with the team to compete for the quarterback position. On September 29, 1968, Briscoe had his first opportunity as a quarterback during the fourth quarter against the then-Boston Patriots (now the New England Patriots) after starting quarterback Steve Tensi suffered a broken collarbone. Briscoe’s first play was a 22-yard completion, leading to an 80-yard touchdown drive. A week later, on October 6, 1968, Briscoe became the first African American starting quarterback in the American Football Conference (AFL). He threw 14 touchdowns in 5 starts during the rest of the season.
During the 1969 season, controversy occurred when coach Lou Saban chose Pete Liske over Briscoe as the starting quarterback. In protest, Briscoe asked to be released from the Broncos and went to the Buffalo (New York) Bills, where he played as a wide receiver. During his time playing with the Bills, he led the team in touchdown catches and made the Pro Bowl in 1970. In 1971, Briscoe was traded to the Miami (Florida) Dolphins, where he won two Super Bowls as a wide receiver in 1972 and 1973. Briscoe played with the San Diego (California) Chargers (Now the Los Angeles Chargers), the Detroit Lions, and the New England Patriots, retiring after the 1976 NFL season.
After retirement from the NFL, Briscoe moved to Los Angeles, California. He became a municipal bond broker and worked with the Boys and Girls Club in Long Beach, California. In 2016, the University of Nebraska Omaha honored him with a statue.
Marlin Oliver Briscoe died on June 27, 2022, at age 76.