With everything that happened this past season for the Florida Gators football program, I couldn’t help but stop and think (I know dangerous, right?) Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel was out the majority of the season after breaking his fibula against Tennessee resulting in backup Tyler Murphy to fill his place (until Skyler Mornhinweg had to finish out the final three games due to Murphy becoming injured.)
Pretty much the standard for how things work, don’t you think? Your starting QB goes down so the backup comes in to try and salvage something. But what came to mind for me and caught my attention was that in the 107 years of Florida football existence, the Gators have had an array of great quarterbacks to come through the university.
From Steve Spurrier to Kerwin Bell to John Reaves to Rex Grossman (sorry Bears fans) Danny Wuerffel and of course Tim Tebow to name just a few. Even all three of the programs Heisman trophy winners were quarterbacks (Spurrier, Wuerffel and Tebow.) But did you notice a pattern with some of the players I mentioned? You guessed it…all white.
The only starting quarterback at UF that I can think of that was of a different race was Chris Leak. So what’s my point with all of this? Well, just a few weeks ago we were celebrating the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It’s been 50 years since Dr. King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
From those steps Dr. King hoped to see a nation that would not judge a person “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…that little black boys and black girls would be able to hold hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
It’s interesting how perspective can play such a monumental role in how we view life. I’m sure to many when they heard that Tyler Murphy was named the new starter, he was just another quarterback they hoped would take this Gator football team and lead them to greatness (that didn’t work out so well.)
For me, I noticed something alarming and special all at the same time. In those 50 years since Dr. King’s speech, Florida will have to its résumé just two starting black quarterbacks to its name. I understand Jacoby Brissett started a couple games back in 2011 before transferring after losing the job to Driskel last season but as I mentioned earlier, his time as a Gator was too short lived. (Even back in 2010, former tight end Jordan Reed played a few games at QB but nothing further developed.)
If you do the math, in those 50 years the Gators could have had around 16 different quarterbacks if they all played three years. The NCAA in 1972 finally allowed freshman to play varsity football and now with so many players seeing the field as freshman and forgoing their senior seasons, I thought that was a fair average.
Potentially 16 different quarterbacks and you’re telling me Florida has had only two that we’re something other than white? That’s disheartening. The bright spot I eluded to earlier was it doesn’t seem to matter what color Murphy is, which shows me the progression this country has made since Dr. King’s speech.
Is it because people are more enamored with winning or it’s an actual sign of change I don’t know. I hope it’s the latter.
While Murphy (now at Boston College after transferring) had his struggles, it doesn’t matter because unbeknownst to us he’s the personification of what Dr. King had in mind.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Happy Birthday Dr. King, it’s taken us some time, but we’re getting there.