Redshirt sophomore will be school’s first Black starting quarterback since 1979
When UCLA takes the field against Arizona State in the Rose Bowl on Saturday, history will be made as redshirt sophomore Osaar Rasshan will be the team’s first Black starting quarterback in nearly 30 years.
Rasshan, who attended Garey High in Pomona, will be the first Black starter since Bernard Quarles in 1979. Quarles, who attended Jefferson High School, later transferred to the University of Hawaii where he played from 1980-1982.
Last week, when he entered the third quarter of the Bruins’ game against Arizona, he was the first Black quarterback to see game action since Bert Emanuel in 1990. Trailing 34-14 in the third quarter, he led the Bruins to a near comeback victory and although they fell short 34-27, Rasshan finished 3-for-10 with 78 passing yards and 57 rushing yards.
Shortly after the game, UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell announced that he would start this weekend’s game against the Sun Devils, who are ranked No. 9 in the country.
Originally recruited as a quarterback, Rasshan started the season as a wide receiver before injuries to the Bruins’ top two quarterbacks and a tough loss to Notre Dame last month forced the coaching staff to reintegrate him as a quarterback.
The quarterback has traditionally been the most prestigious role in football and it has long been a position dominated by White athletes. Traditionally, it was assumed that while Blacks had the athletic ability, they lacked the intelligence to play the premier position.
Although times have changed due to the success of Black quarterbacks like Hall of Famer Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, and Donovan McNabb, Blacks quarterbacks are still often converted to skill positions such as wide receiver in order to prolong their careers.
This was the case for Emanuel, who eventually transferred to Rice and went on to an eight-year career in the National Football League as a wide receiver.
UCLA has had their share of Black athletes find success in their program as All-Americans starting with Lincoln High alum Kenny Washington in 1939 to three-time All-American Kenny Easley, Westchester alum Ken Norton Jr. and current NFL players Maurice Jones-Drew and former Long Beach Poly star Marcedes Lewis.
Currently, All-American Bruce Davis is one of the top defensive ends in the country while Brian Price from Crenshaw is just beginning make his mark as a freshman defensive end.
However, all of them found success at other positions instead of quarterback while nationally respected football programs such as Virginia Tech Florida, Texas and Ohio State have recently showcased Black quarterbacks who have proven to be winners.
Last year’s national title game proved that as both starting quarterbacks, Chris Leak (Florida) and Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith (Ohio St.), were Black. And USC fans still have nightmares of Vince Young running wild when he led Texas to a national championship over the Trojans in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
Speaking of USC, their last Black starting quarterback was Reggie Perry, who led the team in passing in 1991 as a sophomore and saw action as a backup over the next two seasons.
But UCLA’s color drought at quarterback will finally end Saturday when 20-year-old Osaar Rasshan steps on the field in Pasadena.