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Third and a Mile: From Fritz Pollard to Michael Vick--an Oral History of the Trials, Tears and Triumphs of the Black Quarterback [Hardcover]

William C Rhoden
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 30, 2007 1933060115 978-1933060118 English Language
An oral history of the fifty-year struggle to level football's playing fields

Long after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier, after Texas Western beat Kentucky to shake up the basketball world, America's black quarterbacks found themselves trapped on football's sidelines unable to play the game they loved unless they moved to wide receiver -- or to Canada. A collection of voices young and old, William C. Rhoden's Third and a Mile chronicles for the first time the heroic struggle to topple the sports world's staunchest racial barrier. Filled with personal anecdotes and firsthand recollections, the book includes testimony from NFL greats such as Warren Moon, Doug Williams, Vince Evans, James Harris, Marlin Briscoe, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, Daunte Culpepper, and Michael Vick.

The NFL's first five black quarterbacks -- Marlin Briscoe, James Harris, Vince Evans, Warren Moon, and Doug Williams -- have come together to form The Field Generals -- a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching and preserving the history of the African-American quarterback. These men have agreed to participate on all levels in the development and promotion of the book.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William C. Rhoden has written a sports column for The New York Times since 1983. Prior to that, he worked at The Baltimore Sun and Ebony magazine. In the late'60s, he studied black quarterbacks up close as a starting defensive back on Morgan State University's football team. Rhoden lives with his wife and daughter in New York.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: ESPN; English Language edition (January 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933060115
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933060118
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #881,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Defining Piece Of Pro Football History January 22, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
With all the hype that will now surround the Super Bowl, I urge you to take a step back from it all and read this important oral history that was compiled by author William C. Rhoden.

From Fritz Pollard to Willie Totten, Willie Thrower and Marlin Briscoe, to Leon Jackson III and Marvin Burroughs, more than 80 individuals - players & their family members, coaches and media members - are interviewed for this comprehensive exploration in the grudging acceptance of the black quarterback in professional football. Racism has had no out-of-bounds line in America's Game.

The text is built around the recollections of The Field Generals - James Harris, Marlin Briscoe, Doug Williams and Warren Moon - who started a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching and preserving the history of the black quarterback.

From a 1971 comment from Fran Tarkenton - an Al Campanis-styled look at the quarterback's "evolutionary" role on a team - to a hateful comment by Otto Graham to one outstanding collegiate quarterback, the sordid past and present is shown as it really was then and the ugly games that are still being played today.

Let us not forget the pre-draft smear campaign waged last year against Vince Young on his allegedly not testing well on an exam used by NFL teams to determine if a player has "what it takes" to lead a team at quarterback.

Particularly interesting are the lists that contain the collegiate Division I lettermen quarterbacks through 2006 and every quarterback who attempted at least eight passes in the NFL and AFL.

Like all the major sports, the NFL has been reluctant to admit its full culpability in the institutionalized practice of racism on and off the field.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History that's more than worth knowing February 4, 2007
Hear about the battles fought straight from the warriors themselves. Rhoden provides intellectual narrative while the players and their teammates, coaches, and peers provide insight into what was once a very dark world for the African American quarterback.

Read about what happened to Joe Gilliam after he was denied the opportunity to continue starting at QB, about Doug Williams big day in Super Bowl XXII, about the effects the trials left on these men, and the harsh words that fans and even highly regarded players had to say against the idea of an African American playing the central position on the football field.

Easy to read, hard to stomach. Next time you see Donovan McNabb or Vince Young out on the field, think about those who came before them and appreciate what they went through to give their successors an even field and a fresh set of downs.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Study July 1, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Did get some interesting facts on some of the original black quarterbacks and their struggles to make it in the NFL. It gave good insight into today's black quarterback's perspective on what it takes to be a quarterback in the NFL.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Raw and riveting accounts September 28, 2012
I loved that 'Third and a Mile' trained a spotlight on the deeply underrated Marlin Briscoe (the first African-American quarterback to throw a pass in the modern era, while with the Denver Broncos), as well as Warren Moon (first to earn induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame). Of course, coming up in the time that he did, Briscoe would eventually win two Super Bowls with Miami -- but only after being moved to receiver.

Still, the yeoman's work done by Briscoe and other early pioneers like James Harris opened the passway for Doug Williams, who would become the most valuable player of the 1988 Super Bowl for the Washington Redskins, and then (though, in many cases, much later) a series of modern-day black quarterbacks.

In the end, that's what makes Rhoden's work here so important. 'Third and a Mile' completes the backdrop for today's success stories, even as it fills in the untold elements of these older, foundational narratives. He presents an oral history, rather than weaving in the expected prose. These raw and riveting accounts give the book its power, and its poignancy -- even if the book's stark style means Rhoden disappears a bit in the telling. About 80 different voices are heard, loud and clear. And their words become an ever-more resounding rebuke for what came before ... and a celebration for what's happened since.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Sociohistorical Presentation! December 6, 2011
As a child growing up in the late 60's early 70's, I rarely saw a BLAK quarterback until James Harris of the LA Rams, Joe Gilliam on television. I always wondered why we were not playing the position since we had/have historically BLAK colleges and universities that were quarterbacked by extremely competent young men. As an alumunus of a BLAK university, I salute the authors research ability at tackling a very tough subject, focusng on only on the NFL and notinclusive of the CFL.

Just as it took america to get to the current place of a culturally intergrated republic several hundred years and it's growing pains, the BLAK quarterback is corrolationally eperiencing those same growth pains as we see in the NFL today. Excellent information for the young person coming up in high school to know what was in order to know what to do to succeed in a non post-racial society.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Touchdown for the Journey
Great read and always enjoy reading Bill Rhoden's material! I enjoyed it almost as much at 40 million dollar slave. Read more
Published on September 5, 2011 by Derrick Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Third and a Mile is a great book. I recommend this book to ANY sports fan!
Published on April 27, 2009 by Harry T. Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Good oversight of black QB history; bit thin, and a bit pricey
I don't know how often I'm going to be typing that line "and a bit pricey," but a pre-discount price of $25 for a large-type book coming in at just over 200 pages is a bit... Read more
Published on January 14, 2009 by S. J. Snyder
4.0 out of 5 stars No good reason why blacks can't be quarterbacks.
Black athletes have been denied the position of quarterback long after other positions in football, as well as other major sports had opened up to them. Read more
Published on August 15, 2007 by Charles P. Hobbs
5.0 out of 5 stars (RAW Rating: 4.5) - On top of their game
I'm hardly a football connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, however THIRD AND A MILE is written in such a manner that captivates the reader from start to finish. Read more
Published on May 1, 2007 by The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers
4.0 out of 5 stars Sports is the new Civil War
A nice compilation of stories & comments illustrating the challenges of becoming a black QB in the NFL over the last several decades. Read more
Published on April 28, 2007 by R. J. McCabe
3.0 out of 5 stars A very ambitious project, but misses quite a bit in several...
New item: Half black QB Russell Wilson just won
the Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks, who I
almost called Super Sonics! Read more
Published on March 29, 2007 by Rich The Reviewer
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be Assigned Reading
My son sent me an autographed copy of this. Warren Moon was at the Army P/X in Fort Lewis, WA. The place was standing room only. Read more
Published on March 12, 2007 by Michael Wideski
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