Omaha football star Marlin Briscoe remembered following death at 76

Tributes nationwide for Omaha legend Marlin Briscoe.
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 10:46 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Tributes from teams, players, fans, and friends are pouring in following the death of Marlin Briscoe, the first Black quarterback to play in the American Football League.

The 76-year-old College Football Hall-of-Famer died Monday after developing pneumonia, according to his daughter.

“He was just an extraordinary person, not only a great athlete but he was a good person, well-loved by everyone who knew him. That was just him,” says John Beasley, an actor from Omaha who came to be close friends with Briscoe.

Briscoe was born in California but grew up in South Omaha. He played football at South High and went on to set 22 records at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Back then it was Omaha University.

Briscoe played at Omaha from 1964-1967, was a three-time All-Central Intercollegiate Conference selection, and led the Mavericks to the CIC title in 1967. That same year, he threw for 2,283 yards and 25 touchdowns.

It was at Omaha University where Briscoe and Beasley met.

“I had joined the football team and he was the second-year quarterback, and he was the first person to come up to me and make me feel member and as a member of the team. And ever since then, we’ve been pretty good friends,” says the ‘Rudy,’ ‘The Mighty Ducks,’ and ‘The Apostle’ actor, Beasley.

On the field in Omaha is where Briscoe earned his famous nickname: The Magician.

“I was blocking for him a lot of the time, I would see Marlin on one side of the field, surrounded by players, and the next thing you know, he’s on the other side of the field way downfield, he was just that brilliant,” Beasley says.

Briscoe was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 14th round in 1968. That’s where he made his mark as the first Black player to start as a quarterback, paving the road for other Black players, and inspiring the likes of OJ Simpson, and James Harris, the first Black man drafted as a quarterback.

“What people don’t really know about Marlin was that he was also a union guy, and he was responsible for free agency. That’s one of the reasons he was blackballed by AFL, he was blackballed after Miami and moved around a lot because of that,” Beasley says. “But, he was able to get back into the league because Denver needed a wide receiver at the time so they brought Marlin back into the league, and eventually he ended up at New England where he ended his career.”

Briscoe is memorialized at both his alma maters; UNO and South High. In 2014, a portion of ‘M’ street near South was renamed “Marlin Briscoe Way,’ and in 2016, UNO unveiled a life-sized statue of Briscoe, which is now displayed on campus.

“Everything I’ve learned about life, both positive and negative, I’ve learned here in Omaha,” Briscoe told 6 News in 2016.

Briscoe is fondly remembered by the football world, and by friends like Beasley.

“He was very personal with everyone he came across, he treated everyone with respect and dignity, he was just a great person,” Beasley says. “There are many favorite moments, my time with Marlin, but a lot of them I can’t even talk about,” he says laughing.

Beasley says the two would talk on the phone weekly, and his friend will be sorely missed.

“He said lately to me that you know, we’re in the fourth quarter. Well, now the game’s over for him and I know that he’s in a better place.”

Beasley says his new life goal is to get ‘The Magician,’ the film about Briscoe’s life, completed. He says the screenplay was written by Greg Howard, who wrote ‘Remember the Titans,’ and is almost complete.

He also hopes to produce a documentary about Briscoe’s life.

“I miss you man, I miss you.”

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