OMAHA, Neb. – Omaha sports icon Marlin Briscoe will be honored at Baxter Arena this September in recognition of his recent selection to the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame.
“An Evening with The Magician” will celebrate the life and career of the Omaha native and civil rights trailblazer who made history in 1968 as the first African-American starting quarterback in professional football playing for the Denver Broncos.
“An Evening with The Magician” is set for Thursday, Sept. 22 and is the first in a series of three community events.
Briscoe, a standout football and basketball player from Omaha South and quarterback for Omaha University (now the University of Nebraska Omaha), will be honored Friday, Sept. 23 on the UNO campus at a special unveiling of a bronze, life-sized statue of his likeness.
He will be honored again that evening during Omaha South High School’s Homecoming football game at Collin Field (23rd & L).
The celebrations are being organized by a committee of Nebraska citizens dedicated to celebrating Briscoe's historic achievements.
One of the committee members is Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers, an Omaha native who played for the Nebraska football team in the 1970s. He says Briscoe's career has affected an entire generation of young athletes.
“Marlin was always able to bring his best when it mattered the most,” Rodgers said. “He didn't talk about what he was going to do. He just went out and defied all odds. It's important to the youth of Nebraska that national heroes are honored right here in our hometown. If Marlin can do it, then we all can do it.”
South High Principal Ruben Cano, who also is a committee member, said Briscoe is an inspiration. Briscoe graduated from Omaha South in 1963 and was running back for its state championship team that year.
“When I think about what Marlin accomplished for the game of football, I liken it to what Jackie Robinson did for baseball,” he said. “Marlin blazed a path for quarterbacks like Warren Moon, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and more to follow. It means a great deal that he is a South High Packer.”
In addition to honoring Briscoe’s legacy, “An Evening with The Magician” is a fundraising event. All proceeds from the event will go toward establishing endowed scholarships for the next generation of student leaders in the greater Omaha area.
There are various levels of sponsorships to “An Evening with The Magician.” Information regarding costs for sponsorships and tables can be found at www.baxterarena.com. Questions on the event should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. For certain sponsorships, an additional table will be donated on behalf of the sponsor to area students.
Omaha businessman Van Deeb, a UNO and Maverick football alumnus, is another committee member.
“It is not likely Omaha will ever again have an opportunity to celebrate a hometown athlete with a story as impactful as Marlin’s. DEEB Companies is proud to be the presenting sponsor of ‘An Evening with The Magician,’” he said. “Marlin’s story of accomplishments and challenges also are representative of the City of Omaha. Omaha is a city of leaders and entrepreneurs, a city of caring people that give and get second chances. This event is not just to celebrate Marlin Briscoe; it is to celebrate the city of Omaha and the people that make this a great place to call home.”
The celebration is a collaboration of the Omaha community, NU Foundation and UNO. “An Evening with The Magician” is an event organized by the following steering committee.
Steering Committee: Trev Alberts Gary Anderson Jerry Bartee John Beasley Damon Benning Ruben Cano Van Deeb Jim Freeman Terry Hanna Johnny Rodgers Roger Sayers Rudy Smith Tom Warren
About Marlin Briscoe Briscoe, who lives in Long Beach, California, was born Sept. 10, 1945, and attended South High School from 1959 through 1963. He attended Omaha University, graduating in 1967.
While at Omaha South, Briscoe made the All-Intercity football team at running back and was part of the team’s conference championship in 1962.
As quarterback at UNO, Briscoe set 22 school records, including 5,114 passing yards and 53 touchdowns for his career. He also was named an NAIA first-team All-American. As a senior, he was among the nation’s leaders in passing and total offense.
Following his graduation from UNO, Briscoe was drafted by the Denver Broncos and on Sept. 29, 1968, took the field against the Boston Patriots as the first-ever African-American starting quarterback. During the next drive, he led the Broncos 80 yards and scored a 12-yard rushing touchdown.
He finished his Broncos career with 1,697 passing yards, 14 passing touchdowns, 336 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns.
Briscoe played the majority of his nine-year career in the NFL as wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills and won two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins. He also spent time with the San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots, amassing 224 career catches for 3,537 yards and 30 receiving touchdowns.
In addition to being named to the National College and High School Football Halls of Fame in 2016, Briscoe is a member of the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame, Omaha Sports Hall of Fame, Nebraska Black Sports Hall of Fame and UNO Athletics Hall of Fame.