Marlin "The Magician" Briscoe: The Legendary Quarterback of the University of Omaha
In 1968, Marlin Briscoe was the first African American starting quarterback in the AFL, blazing a trail for future African American athletes. In his nine-year career with the AFL and NFL, he played for the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills (where he spent the majority of his career), Miami Dolphins (winning two Super Bowls), San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions, and New England Patriots.
For all his success on the national stage of pro football, in Omaha, Marlin Briscoe is best remembered as a hometown hero, an exceptional athlete from Omaha South High School (1959-1963) who brought glory to the University of Omaha (the predecessor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha) (1963-1968).
Briscoe was born on September 10, 1945, in Oakland, California. As a child, he was the target of bullies, but his uncle Bob Rose gave him a "magic box" of baseball, boxing, football, and other athletic gear, which sparked the fire of confidence and changed the course of his life.
At the Municipal University of Omaha (present day UNO), Briscoe flourished under coach Al Caniglia. Though contemporary articles in the Gateway student newspaper often commented on his small size, at 5'10" and 175 pounds, he quickly earned the nickname "The Magician" for his superlative skill in passing and running. His leadership skills were also highly praised, and his field generalship was variously described as cool, modest, classy, and overall excellent. He was an All-American quarterback who led the OU Indians to the CIC championship. He set 22 school records, including 5,114 passing yards and 53 touchdowns for his OU career.
Though best remembered for football, Briscoe also played basketball for OU and was a member of the O Club, an honorary society for lettermen. He was also active in student government. He was the first black member of the OU Student Council, as well as the only "unaffiliated" student (meaning, not a member or a fraternity or sorority) elected that year, which highlights how greatly admired he was by his fellow students.
Afterwards, he was drafted by the Denver Broncos. On September 29, 1968, in a game against the Boston Patriots, he became the first black starting quarterback in the history of the AFL. After that, he spent the majority of his career as a wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills. During his brief time with the Miami Dolphins, the team won two Super Bowls. He also played for the Dan Diego Chargers, the Detroit Lions, and the New England Patriots.
After retiring from football, he worked as a financial advisor and went through some hard times. Then he rebuilt his life and dedicated himself to helping young people through the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach, California. He remains a source of inspiration to many today.
Briscoe has already been inducted into the UNO Athletic Hall of Fame (1975), the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame (1996), the Nebraska Black Sports Hall of Fame (2006), and the Omaha Sports Hall of Fame (2007). In September 2016, a life-sized bronze statue of Briscoe was unveiled at Baxter Arena and in 2019 the statue was moved to UNO's Dodge Campus next to Caniglia Field where Briscoe played football for OU. In December 2016, Briscoe was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
This exhibit was curated by Angela Kroeger, Metadata Coordinator in UNO Libraries' Archives and Special Collections, in 2016.