By Shannon Mia Belt, IT Itern
The plight of the Black quarterback has been documented from the moment Marlin Briscoe took on the starting position for the Denver Broncos in 1968. Despite having greats grace the top of the charts in the NFL and NCAA, teams still have a hard time putting all their eggs into young Black quarterbacks.
The latest story of this hails from Kennesaw, Georgia, and stretches to Ohio State University and on April 29 will be going to an undisclosed location. With the 2021 NFL Draft unfolding on April 29 in Cleveland, Ohio State’s Justin Fields finds himself in the top tier round one draft discussion. Standing at 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, Fields has utilized his modern-day NFL quarterback size to rack up exceptional numbers for the Buckeyes. In the pandemic season of college football, Fields threw for 2,100 yards on 70.2% completion and only threw for six interceptions.
With stats like this and two other seasons to show the consistency of this quarterback, Fields is not ticketed as the big prize of this upcoming draft. CBS Sports and various writers from ESPN have Fields being the fourth quarterback picked in the draft coming behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’S Zach Wilson, and Alabama’s Mac Jones. The placement of Fields draft stock showcases a clear case of the extra steps that come for every Black quarterback attempting to get teams to not only acknowledge your skills but build trust-enough trust to put the weight of an entire franchise on their back.
We can take a look at the stats and go play-by-play comparing Fields to the other top prospect quarterbacks but the ultimate difference in why one gets drafted before the other goes beyond the numbers. When you have commentators such as ESPN’S Dan Orlovsky questioning the young quarterback’s work ethic and on whether or not his desire to be a “great” quarterback was alive and well it is easy for teams to say maybe we’ll go with the other guy.
The notion that Black athletes even more specifically quarterbacks are cocky and rely on their natural talents instead of having a hard worker, “humble” characteristic like how many experts would qualify white quarterbacks is outdated. Despite having quarterbacks like Russel Wilson who managed to slip out of this trope, the lingering notion can be seen in the mock drafts and could prove to be a key deterrent of the success of Black quarterbacks in both the NFL and NCAA.
Fields won’t be the first and won’t be the last quarterback to get drafted later than they actually should have simply because of race and the lack of trust between NFL teams and Black quarterbacks. The stats, size, build and impact he had on Ohio State’s 2020 season considered it is no question that Fields will be picked up early in the first round by a team in need of a versatile quarterback. Whether it be the ninth pick for the Broncos, the seventh pick for the Detroit Lions, or even the third pick for the San Francisco 49ers Fields will make his way to the NFL even it means going later than he should in the draft.