Second of three parts
The first rays of sunlight danced through the bedroom window of the luxurious condominium. Outside, the early birds were beginning to descend upon the golf course which weaved its way through the Lawrence Welk Resort. Even without looking out the window, I could tell it was going to be one of those brilliant, cloudless days in the California desert. So beautiful that I wanted to get some clubs and join the golfers for a leisurely 18 holes.
My assignment for the day was not so relaxing. Certainly, not so carefree. Definitely not so insignificant. This was the day I had waited for all my life. I was starting at quarterback for the Washington Redskins, and that afternoon, we were playing the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII in San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium.
It was Jan. 31, 1988, and they had been playing professional football for more than 60 years. Yet there never had been a black quarterback in the league championship game. I guess a lot of people in the NFL thought there never would be, or hoped there never would be. It had taken me 10 years of fighting the league's prejudice toward playing black quarterbacks to get this far.
As I lay on my back and stared at the ceiling, the first thing that crossed my mind was the pain from my toothache disappeared. I couldn't believe it. On Saturday we had a barbecue after practice, and my tooth started killing me. So I went to see the team dentist, Barry Rudolph. He took me to a dental office in the suburbs of San Diego and found out I needed a root canal.
The root canal took about four hours, although I'm not exactly certain because Dr. Rudolph put me asleep. When I woke up, I was in extreme pain. All I wanted to do was take something to make it stop hurting and go to bed. Back at the team hotel, the San Diego Marriott, everyone was asking, "Where's Doug? Where's Doug?" Dr. Rudolph had called Coach Gibbs and team owner Jack Kent Cooke. But they were the only ones who knew about it. When I finally returned to the hotel, I had to pack an overnight bag because Coach Gibbs wanted to move the team to another location.
It was amazing when I woke up with no pain. It was hard to believe that I could have been hurting so much on Saturday and then have no pain on Sunday morning.
During the week, I had to deal with the issues of being the first black quarterback to play in the Super Bowl. That's all the media wanted to talk about. They treated John Elway as a quarterback they respected. But they just viewed me as a black quarterback.
Reading the newspaper clippings all week, I was supposed to think I didn't have a prayer. I mean I was just expected to show up, be the black quarterback and go home. It was John Elway's Super Bowl. He had been there before and lost to the New York Giants, but now he was going to take it out on the Redskins. The game belonged to him.
Fortunately for me, I had the best offensive line in football, and we had three great receivers in Ricky Sanders, Art Monk and Gary Clark.
What I remember most was driving up to the stadium and seeing all the fans lining the streets and tailgating in the parking lot. As I looked out the window of the bus, I started to get air in my stomach. There were butterflies galore. I usually don't get nervous at all until I put on my uniform. But this was entirely different. . . . I knew the world would be watching me. History was about to be made, and I was going to make it.
Inside our locker room, I could sense the other guys felt the significance of the game. Of course, most of the veterans on our team had been to the Super Bowl and won it. So even though we were intense, there weren't any worried faces. Just the opposite, everyone was walking around talking to someone. Maybe just patting them on the shoulder and saying, "Have a good one." Other guys sat and discussed what they had done all week and the people they had met.
I like a noisy locker room. To me, if it's quiet, that's not a good situation. I don't like teams like that. I want to tell them, "If you're scared, call the police. Don't go out there with me if you're scared." That was never the problem with the Redskins. We were a very confident team.
Everyone was relaxed and calm and expressing themselves. No one was getting carried away, except Dexter Manley. You have to expect that. He got taped and put this hot stuff all over his body and greased himself up. Then he walked up and down the locker room breathing heavy and getting himself psyched up. Coach Gibbs doesn't like loud, boastful players. But that's just Dexter, and you can't keep him from being himself.
While waiting for my name in the pregame introductions, I was nervous. But I still wanted to hear Doug Williams being announced as the Redskins quarterback. In those final moments, what I tried to do was consider myself like any other warm-blooded, black American. I wanted to be proud of Doug Williams playing in the Super Bowl. I tried to put myself in the position of another black American. If Randall Cunningham or Warren Moon had been playing, I would have been proud.
Denver started fast and before you knew it led, 10-0.
On our third series, things got a litle more serious. I dropped back to pass and slipped on a wet spot. As soon as I slipped, I could feel pain shooting through my left knee.
As I was helped to the sideline and Jay Schroeder came in to take my place, I was hurting but still had a good feeling about it. I knew if there wasn't anything torn to the point that I couldn't walk, I would come back.
We ran two plays while they were checking me on the bench, and then had to punt. The first quarter was almost over when the Broncos got the ball. Our defense held and forced them to punt it back. Their punt came on the first play of the second quarter, and we got the ball on our 20. I told Coach Gibbs I was ready to go back in. He never said a word. He knew I would tell him if I couldn't play and he knew I would tell him if I was ready. We had a good relationship that way.
Once I got back in the game, my knee was throbbing, but it was all downhill from there.
The first call was Charlie 10 Hitch. It's just an ordinary play where the quarterback takes a short drop and the receiver runs seven yards and just turns, unless the other team plays another defense. What the Broncos did was pressure us and play a bump-and-run. So I read the coverage and the pattern automatically changed to an up route, where the receiver delays like he is going to turn and then takes off. Ricky Sanders put one heck of a move on Mark Haynes, and Haynes didn't get his hands on Ricky. Ricky was off to the races and was so wide open. The pass wasn't any more than 20 yards. We had thrown that pattern all year, so it was just reaction. I threw the ball where he could catch it, and it was just a matter of outrunning the safety, Tony Lilly. He had the angle on Ricky, but he didn't have the speed to catch him. I just watched Ricky outrun him and go all the way, 80 yards, for our first touchdown. That was the boost we really needed. We had to get something started. After we scored, our confidence level shot way up.
The defense really played hard and set the tempo for the offense. They got us the ball right back. We moved down to their 27. Then we caught the Broncos in a blitz, and Gary Clark was running a corner route and just beat his man for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead.
Our defense stopped them again, and we were right back on the field. I handed off to Timmy Smith on a counter play and he went 58 yards for a touchdown.
The next time we got the ball, we were at midfield and faked the same run Timmy had just scored on. Ricky ran a post, and Lilly never got there. It was another six; 28-10.
Before the end of the first half, I threw for another touchdown, to Clint Didier, to make it 35-10.
As we went to the locker room, I realized how much my knee hurt. All I could think about was getting something to stop the pain. My mind was set on getting one of those good ol' Novocain shots.
I told one of our team doctors to give me a shot. There was no way I was going to let Schroeder play that day. It was my day, and I was going to play. I didn't want Jay to have any part of it.
The bottom line is Jay Schroeder is a prima donna. All week I could tell it was eating him up that we were playing in the Super Bowl and he wasn't going to get in. He already had a nasty attitude, and everyone noticed the way he was acting. Coach Gibbs even contemplated not activating him for the Super Bowl. I was told he thought about bringing Mark Rypien up for the game, because Schroeder's attitude was so bad.
Coach Gibbs could have just said we were going to let me rest and put Jay in to finish the game. He could easily have done that. It was his decision to make, but he left it up to me. That's the kind of man he is. After I got the shot, I felt great. There was no more pain, and I told him I was ready to go back out there.
Our defense completely controlled the second half. Barry Wilburn had a couple interceptions. Brian Davis got one. Dexter Manley and Charles Mann put a lot of pressure on Elway.
I didn't start to celebrate until our last drive when Timmy scored his second touchdown to make it 42-10. Then they announced that I had been voted the most valuable player, and all the guys came up to me and patted me on the helmet. That's when it finally set in, "This is over. This is history. We are the Super Bowl champions."
Being the MVP of the Super Bowl is certainly an honor. But on that day, I didn't care. I had thrown for 340 yards and four touchdowns, most of it in the second quarter. So they decided I was the MVP. For me, the MVP was just icing on the cake. Winning the Super Bowl was the important thing. That was the cake.
Next: A bitter farewell.
Excerpted with permission from "Quarterblack: Shattering the NFL Myth" by Doug Williams with Bruce Hunter, Bonus Books, Chicago.