Briscoe had been hospitalized due to circulation problems in his legs.
The Broncos issued a statement via Twitter:
“We are heartbroken to learn of the passing of former Broncos QB Marlin Briscoe. Marlin was a pioneer who shattered barriers, making history as the first Black starting quarterback in the Super Bowl era. He paved the way for countless others and created an indelible legacy, including through our Marlin Briscoe Diversity Coaching Fellowship. Our deepest sympathies go out to Marlin’s family, friends and former teammates.”
The Broncos drafted Briscoe in 1968, and he made history as the first Black starting quarterback in the American Football League.
As a rookie, he appeared in 11 games for the Broncos, and he made five starts. He was outstanding, as he threw for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns. In addition, he rushed for 308 yards and three touchdowns.
Dave Smith, who was a scout for the New Orleans Saints, raved about Briscoe’s arm.
“He’s got the greatest arm I have ever seen on any quarterback — college or pro,” Smith said.
However, the Broncos signed quarterback Pete Liske after the season, and the organization decided that Briscoe would no longer be the starter.
As a result, Briscoe asked to be released. He later opened up about the situation to Ben Swanson of the Broncos’ official site.
“All I wanted to do was compete,” Briscoe said. “I didn’t expect the Broncos to start me as their quarterback. All I wanted was a chance to compete for the job. I thought I deserved that. I didn’t ask them to give me anything. But I could see that it wasn’t going to happen.”
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Briscoe Was Also a Pro Bowl Wide Receiver
In an interesting turn of events, Briscoe signed with the Buffalo Bills, and he agreed to move to wide receiver. Despite switching positions, Briscoe continued to thrive. In 1970, he topped 1,000 receiving yards and was selected to the Pro Bowl.
Over the years, Briscoe enjoyed a successful career as a wide receiver. In fact, he won two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins. He led the 1972 Dolphins, who went undefeated, in receiving touchdowns.
Briscoe did not get the opportunity to play quarterback again, but he refused to quit.
“But the thing is, I tell these young kids, I never quit,” Briscoe said via Swanson. “They thought they had me out of the league, and within two years I made All-Pro. Not bragging or anything, but most people would have quit.”
Briscoe Is In the College Football Hall of Fame
Briscoe was also a prolific college athlete. At the University of Nebraska at Omaha, he broke 22 school records. The university unveiled a statue of him in 2016.
Prior to the 1968 draft, former NFL executive Gil Brandt praised Broscoe’s quickness. “Marlin has the greatest quickness of any college quarterback we’ve ever seen,” Brandt said. “… He’s as good as any big-time quarterback in college right now and just one heck of a football player.”
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2016.