Although many Black athletes earn an opportunity to play in the NFL, there are certain barriers only a few have been able to break. In recent history, Black athletes and coaches have made history by besting the league with their skill and talent.

Doug Williams

Orlando, FL – December 12, 2013 – Walt Disney World: Doug Williams during the Home Depot College Football Awards
(Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

After the Washington Redskins went 12-4 during the 1987 season, the team outlasted the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs to reach Super Bowl XXII. He overcame an injury and a 10-point deficit to lead the Redskins to a 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. Williams was also the first Black quarterback to be a starter in the Super Bowl. He was also the first NFL player to make four touchdowns in one half of the title match.

Before the NFL, Williams played football for Grambling State, where he was a starter for four years. He led the Grambling State Tigers to a 36-7 record during him time there. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him in 1978, Williams was the 17th overall pick. With the Bucs, Williams was a starter in the 1979 NFC Championship game.

Charles Haley

Santa Clara, CA – September 14, 2015 – Levi’s Stadium: Hall of Famers Steve Young and Charles Haley of the San Francisco 49ers prior to a regular season Monday Night Football game
(Photo by Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)

Over a 13-year career, Haley was the first NFL player to win five Super Bowl titles. Until recently, that was the highest number of Super Bowl titles any individual player earned. He won back-to-back titles with the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980’s. Haley joined the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and won three Super Bowls with the franchise.

A native of Virginia, Haley was a linebacker at James Madison University where he became a two-time All-American. During the 1986 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected him in the fourth round.

Tony Dungy

Tampa, FL – September 24, 2018 – Raymond James Stadium: Tony Dungy and Lisa Salters during a regular season Monday Night Football game
(Photo by Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)

Although he won a Super Bowl as a player, he made history by being the first Black head coach to win a title. Dungy was at the helm of the Indianapolis Colts from 2002 to 2008, leading them to Super Bowl XLI. It was a historic day as Dungy was facing off against his friend Lovie Smith and the Chicago Bears. This was the first time two Black head coaches battled in the Super Bowl.

Prior to the Colts, Dungy was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For 10 straight years, he led a team to the playoffs, Dungy was the first NFL head coach to complete the feat. Dungy spent three years as a player in the NFL, playing for the San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants, and the Pittsburg Steelers.

Russell Wilson

Seattle, WA – December 10, 2018 – CenturyLink Field: Russell Wilson (3) of the Seattle Seahawks during a regular season Monday Night Football game
(Photo by Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)

After Williams won the Super Bowl, took over 20 years for another Black quarterback to hoist the Lombardi trophy. Signal callers Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb and Colin Kaepernick had tried but fell short. Wilson was in his sophomore season when he helped the Seattle Seahawks to a 13-3 in-season record.

With 26 rushing yards and 206 passing yards Wilson led the Seahawks to a 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos. Wilson made 257 passes for 3,357 yards and 96 carries for 539 yards during the 2013 regular season. In college, Wilson helped the Wisconsin Badgers to the 2012 Rose Bowl game, where they lost to the Oregon Ducks 45-38.