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“An Amazing Specimen”: NFL Draft Experts’ Evaluations of Black Quarterbacks


This paper, by way of examining two reputable sports publication, uses quantitative methods to study how NFL draft experts evaluate Black college quarterbacks. We find that draft experts buy into and perpetuate racial stereotypes about Blacks that adversely impact Black college quarterbacks’ chances of matriculating to the National Football League.

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  1. 1.

    Warren Moon and Doug Williams were the only two consistently starting Black quarterbacks in the NFL in the early 1980s.

  2. 2.

    One of the earlier examples was Jimmy Raye who led the Michigan State Spartans two to Big Ten titles in 1965 and 1966, but was converted to defensive back after being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite having a rather celebrated career as a quarterback at Stanford University in the early 1970s, Gene Washington was converted into a wide receiver by the San Francisco 49ers where he would star. Tony Dungy, a quarterback at the University of Minnesota would be switched to defensive back as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1977. Tracy Ham of Georgia Southern University was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1987 as a running back. More recent examples of Black college quarterbacks having to switch positions include Ronald Curry (Raiders), Hines Ward (Steelers), and Antwaan Randle El (Redskins).

  3. 3.

    The list of Black quarterbacks who would go to Canada is endless. One of the most successful quarterbacks in Canadian Football League (CFL) history is Warren Moon, who was a superb college quarterback, leading the University of Washington to a 1977 Rose Bowl victory. Still Moon was not given a chance to play quarterback in the NFL, forcing him to play in the CFL. After leading the Edmonton Eskimos to five consecutive Gray Cup championships, he was finally given a chance to play in the NFL when the Houston Oilers, unable to land a quality quarterback in the 1984 draft, signed Moon in 1984. The 1984 draft was especially weak on quarterbacks as no quarterbacks were taken in the first round. Chuck Prior to Moon Chuck Ealey helped lead the Hamilton Tiger Cats to a Grey Cup in 1972. Other notables include Turner Gill of Nebraska and Tracy Ham of Georgia Southern.

  4. 4.

    The phrase “NFL draft experts” should not be understood to mean that they necessarily have any official ties to the NFL, only that they are “experts on the NFL Draft.”

  5. 5.

    The 1991, 1993, 2002 issues had a different style of coverage than other years that rendered it impossible to code using our methods.

  6. 6.

    Individuals were omitted for three reasons. 1) They were neither white nor black, such as Marques Tuiasosopo. 2) They chose to pursue a career in another sport, such as Drew Henson who chose baseball. 3) They were being projected at a different position, as was the case with Eric Crouch (Nebraska) and Antwaan Randle El (Indiana University).

  7. 7.

    The chi-square analysis was done at the urging of an earlier reviewer of this manuscript. Although the chi-square analysis did not advance our research in any substantive manner the figures that accompany the analysis are illuminating images that give our findings a visual context.

  8. 8.

    Later it was determined that Young’s test was graded incorrectly, that Young had actually scored a 16 rather than a 6. The correction however did little to quell whispers about Young’s intelligence.


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Special thanks goes to Valerie Still, Professor Jeffries’ graduate research assistant, at The Ohio State University for tracking down numerous articles, some of which were highly obscure.

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Correspondence to Judson L. Jeffries.

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It is not uncommon to hear some white broadcasters or scouts refer to a Black athlete as an amazing specimen.

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Bigler, M., Jeffries, J.L. “An Amazing Specimen”: NFL Draft Experts’ Evaluations of Black Quarterbacks. J Afr Am St 12, 120–141 (2008).

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  • Black quarterbacks
  • College
  • Racial stereotypes