Erick McNair

A father’s wisdom is cherished beyond measure. In the intimate clip featured below, football legend Doug Williams sits with his daughter to impart timeless life lessons of strength, resilience and perseverance. Together, they reflect on Williams’ trailblazing career breaking barriers as the first Black quarterback to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy. In the clip, Doug Williams opens up to his daughter Jasmine about the importance of cultivating mental strength – a lesson as relevant today as ever. “The tools that students need in their toolbox, in today’s students, they need to be mentally strong,” he shares. Williams stresses finding mentors, “people they can talk to [and] get through certain things.”

For the pioneering quarterback, focusing inward on one’s mental fortitude proved most vital when facing relentless doubts as the NFL’s first Black starting signal caller. His remarks serve as the perfect introduction to his own story exemplifying resilience through challenge and change.

Doug Williams’ Formative Years

Doug Williams was born in 1955 in Zachary, Louisiana, a small town just outside of Baton Rouge. He grew up during the peak of the Civil Rights movement, entering elementary school just a few years after Brown vs. Board of Education mandated school desegregation in 1954. Williams would later reflect on how the racial tensions in the South during this time no doubt shaped him.

In high school at nearby Chaneyville High, Williams started as quarterback all four years and led the team to the state championship game his senior season in 1973. This success drew the attention of nearby historically black college Grambling State University, under legendary coach Eddie Robinson. Williams accepted a full scholarship to play for Coach Robinson at Grambling.

At Grambling, under Robinson’s tutelage, Williams continued to develop his natural abilities. He gained valuable experience in Grambling’s fast-paced offensive system, learning Xs and Os while also improving his mental processing and leadership on the field. Off the field, Williams benefited from Robinson’s mentorship as the iconic coach prepared his young QB for the racial barriers he would surely face at higher levels of football. 

Doug Williams’ NFL Career and Super Bowl Triumph

Defying expectations and prejudices, Williams proved scouts wrong when selected 17th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1978 NFL Draft, becoming the first Black quarterback picked in the first round. Though posting solid rookie stats, immense cultural pressures weighed heavily on Williams as one of a mere handful of Black starters league-wide. He endured constant scrutiny and unfair expectations simply due to the color of his skin.

After establishing himself as Tampa Bay’s starter, Williams put up his best numbers in 1981 but remained frustrated with what he felt was unfair treatment and compensation. Though he had proven himself a top quarterback, when offered a new deal by the Bucs, he felt it did not reflect his true value. In protest, Williams advocated for himself and sat out the entire 1983 season, holding firm to the stand he took for fair pay, and sacrificing a year in his prime to make a statement.

Redemption in the Nation’s Capital

After leaving the Buccaneers following 1983, Williams pursued an opportunity to join the USFL for two seasons with the Oklahoma Outlaws. However, when that league folded in 1986, Williams found a chance to resurrect his NFL career. Veteran coach Joe Gibbs had just taken over the Washington Redskins and believed Williams’ experience and toughness could bolster the team. Gibbs signed Williams as a backup, hoping the talented quarterback still had more to prove.

Williams worked tirelessly to show he still had championship ability. By 1987, he had worked his way into the starting role when an injury sidelined Jay Schroeder. Leading an otherwise dominant Redskins squad, Williams’ steady play helped guide the team to a playoff berth. This set the stage for his ultimate heroics the following season. In 1988, Williams led Washington to a 14-2 regular season record as the entrenched starter. With momentum on their side, Williams was primed to etch his name in history on football’s biggest stage – Super Bowl XXII. There, he would rise to the occasion with the iconic four-touchdown performance that cemented his legacy forever.

Williams’ Trailblazing Work Beyond the Gridiron

Post career, Williams’ impact has endured through passionate devotion to growing opportunities at every level. In 2009, he co-founded the Black College Football Hall of Fame with close friend James “Shack” Harris. Based at Williams’ alma mater Grambling State University, this institution celebrates overlooked HBCU legends who helped revolutionize the sport. Each year standout players, coaches and historical figures from these pioneering programs are inducted and remembered for inspiring future generations.

In 2020, Williams established the Doug Williams Center for the Study of Race and Politics in Sports at Grambling State. Through conducting research, hosting panel discussions and collaborative programming, the Center serves as a vital forum examining systemic barriers still confronting collegiate and professional sports.

Alongside Harris in 2022, Williams launched the HBCU Legacy Bowl. The inaugural HBCU Legacy Bowl in 2022 was a resounding success, showcasing over 100 top prospects for NFL scouts. This premier all-star game and scouting showcase features top football prospects from Historically Black College and University programs. Providing a necessary national platform, the Legacy Bowl’s inaugural contest in 2022 was a resounding success that unlocked potential and opportunities through exposure and evaluation for deserving athletes.

Beyond these efforts, Williams has held several front office roles furthering diversity with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars and currently the Washington Commanders – lending invaluable counsel as Senior VP of Player Development. 

Using EVERFI’s Black History Toolkit

Doug Williams has spent his career championing expanded access and opportunities for all. In the same spirit, the resources within EVERFI’s Black History Toolkit offer educators an impactful way to engage students year-round with Williams’ pioneering legacy and the important themes he embodies. By seamlessly integrating these digital courses into any classroom, teachers can honor Williams’ ongoing efforts to both illuminate the struggles and triumphs of the past as well as forge new paths ahead.



Black College Football Hall of Fame. (2021, March). Black College Football Hall of Fame announces the establishment of the HBCU Legacy Bowl. Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Garber, G. (2013, January 29). Doug Williams embraces history. ESPN.

Henderson, W. (2017, July 6). Will Doug Williams have the power to shape the Redskins? ‘I’ve never been a yes guy.’ The Washington Post.

Meyer, C. (2020, August 5). Doug Williams paved way for others in awe-inspiring career. Holland Sentinel.

Sheehan, K. (2022, August 4). Rise of the black qb. The Kevin Sheehan Show.

Wojciechowski, G. (1988, February 1). Well-armed pioneer: Playing in the Super Bowl is just one more challenge for the Skins’ Doug Williams. Sports Illustrated Vault.


About the Author: 

Erick, a Senior Manager on the Customer Marketing team at EVERFI, holds a master’s degree in Sports Management from Georgetown University. With over a decade of experience in the sports and media sector, Erick has cultivated a deep-seated passion for making a meaningful difference in marginalized or underrepresented communities. Before joining EVERFI, Erick worked for Events DC, Washington, DC’s Sports & Convention Authority. He now supports EVERFI’s sports partnerships team, spearheading marketing and event initiatives that engage students around critical topics including character education, mental wellness, and STEM.