Six Degrees of Separation - Eldridge Dickey and Brad Kaaya

Six Degrees of Separation - Eldridge Dickey and Brad Kaaya

Bennubird
Greg Doyel over at CBS sports.com has an article up on the grandson of an African American football player named Eldridge Dickey that has an interesting tie-in to our program. Dickey played his college football at Tennessee State University where he was a standout quarterback. The Oakland Raiders drafted him in 1968, and Dickey led all passers during the preseason that year. Before the season started, and in spite of Dickey's preseason success, the Raiders moved him to WR, and he went on to have a rather pedestrian AFL/NFL career that has left a lot of football enthusiasts asking a lot of what-if questions.

Reading about Dickey made me curious about who was the first African American quarterback to get a start in professional football. I knew about James "Shack" Harris (Grambling State University, Class of 1968) and about Joe Gilliam (Tennessee State University, Class of 1972). As a child I remember seeing Harris and Gilliam play. Their doing so in the late 1960s and early 1970s was a big deal in the black community at that time. Some sources credit Harris as the first African American to start at quarterback in professional football, but interestingly enough it was Marlin Briscoe who holds that honor. Briscoe had played his college ball for the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Denver drafted him in 1968, the same year that the Raiders drafted Dickey and Buffalo drafted Harris.

In a game against the Boston Patriots Denver's starting quarterback got injured and the backup quarterback played poorly so Briscoe was summed into the game. His performance earned him the start in their next game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The coach that gave Briscoe his shot was none other than Louis Henry Saban, who Canes know as Coach Lou Saban. So it was Lou Saban who started the first African American QB in professional football. No need to re-hash Coach Saban's entire career here, but many Canes credit him as providing the spark in the mid 1970s that got our program rolling. It was Saban, for example, who recruited Jim Kelly. Of course, Coach Schnelly took over and led our program to national prominence. Coach Saban moved about quite a bit as a coach, finishing his career at Chowan College a little more than a decade ago.

Eldridge Dickey threw for more than 6,500 yards and 67 touchdowns while at Tennessee State. Those were remarkable numbers considering most teams at that time were run oriented. The Raiders drafted Dickey as a quarterback in the 1st round in the AFL, but he never got a shot at playing quarterback in the regular season. Legendary Kansas City Chief's Coach Hank Stram called the Raiders' decision not to play Dickey at quarterback "one of the greatest sports crimes ever committed." According to "The Lord's Prayer", a documentary on the life of Eldridge Dickey, Stram had wanted Dickey as his quarterback, but the Raiders drafted him before he could select him. (A part of that documentary is accessible on Youtube.)

Today, Dickey's grandson, Brayden Lenius hopes to follow in his grandfather's footsteps into the professional ranks. Until this year, Brayden played high school football in Canada, where his family lived and he was one of the top high school players in the nation. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, he looks to have the makings of a solid D-1 athlete. So what is the connection with Brayden? Well according to Doyel, Brayden transferred to Los Angeles' Chaminade Prep where, after October 11th, he'll be catching passes from Brad Kaaya, our prized quarterback commit. Brayden was not eligible to play the first part of the season because of having transferred. So, Brayden, the grandson of an outstanding African American quarterback who was not allowed to play the position he was best suited for, will be catching passes from an African American and elite high school quarterback in Brad Kaaya who is part of Brayden's grandfather's legacy. Brad has not made it to the NFL yet, but as Doyel states in his article, if he wants to play quarterback and has the talent then he can play quarterback.

For those who are wondering what happened with the pioneering African American quarterbacks mentioned earlier, Lou Saban did not keep Briscoe as his signal caller. At 5-10 and 177 pounds Briscoe lacked ideal size even for that day, so he too was moved to WR. By comparison, Dickey was 6'2" and Harris is 6'4". The Broncos traded Briscoe to Buffalo in 1969 where he caught passes from "Shack" Harris, who the Bills had drafted the previous year. Today, Harris is an NFL executive and Briscoe is a retired Bonds salesman. Dickey remained in the league as a little used receiver until 1971. Joe Gilliam, who was an understudy of Dickey at Tennessee State, played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1972-1975, but like Dickey and many other professional athletes he had a long and difficult battle with substance abuse. Dickey eventually righted the ship and became a minister. He succumbed to a stroke in 2000. Gilliam never defeated his demons and died of an overdose that same year.

As it stands, Brad Kaaya is a 9 route away from Eldridge Dickey, a mere six degrees of separation.

Gregg Doyel's CBS article can be found here:
http://www.cbssports.com/general/wr...e-to-create-nfl-legacy-that-dickey-was-denied
 

Comments (16)

For those of us old U fans, AA QB's were the norm for Miami in the 70's. featuring EJ Baker, Kary Baker, Frank Glover, Kenny McMillan etc. All the hysteria and hype when Jacory got the starting job was pretty funny considering he was old news in terms of black QB's here.

At Miami, it's been there and done that for a long, long time.
 
Marlin played for the Dolphins also. I remember Gilliam in the OB one night. I think Dick Anderson got 3 or 4 picks off him. Rough night for the kid, but the No Names gave everybody rough times. Dandycane is right, THE U has had plenty of black QBs. Since I went to Pace, I am hoping Morris becomes the first to bring a NC home. He has hell of a lot better coaching than the others had.
 
Marlin played for the Dolphins also. I remember Gilliam in the OB one night. I think Dick Anderson got 3 or 4 picks off him. Rough night for the kid, but the No Names gave everybody rough times. Dandycane is right, THE U has had plenty of black QBs. Since I went to Pace, I am hoping Morris becomes the first to bring a NC home. He has hell of a lot better coaching than the others had.

You had me until a bridge too far.
 
Thanks everyone! I just found it really interesting that it was Saban who had the courage to play Briscoe and that Dickey's grandson will be linked to Brad Kaaya. I'm looking forward to seeing how Brayden does. He actually looks like he could be a really good prospect. I did not mention it in the article, but our very own Ray Bellamy was a contemporary of Dickey, Gilliam, and Harris.
 
Here are our quarterbacks during the second half of the 1970s and into the early 80s according to 50 Years of College Football. Dandycane mentions most of them.
1975 - Kary Baker and Frank Glover
1976 - E.J. Baker and Frank Glover
1977 - E.J. Baker and Kenny McMillian
1978 - Kenny McMillian and Mike Rodrique
1979 - Mike Rodrique and Jim Kelly
1980 - Jim Kelly
1981 - Jim Kelly
1982 - Mark Richt and Jim Kelly (Kelly started the season but got hurt)
1983 - Bernie Kosar

For those of us old U fans, AA QB's were the norm for Miami in the 70's. featuring EJ Baker, Kary Baker, Frank Glover, Kenny McMillan etc. All the hysteria and hype when Jacory got the starting job was pretty funny considering he was old news in terms of black QB's here.

At Miami, it's been there and done that for a long, long time.
 

2021 Commits

S
6'5"
220
Fort Lauderdale, FL
DT
6'4"
255
Miami, FL
OG
6'2"
295
Miami, FL
DT
6'4"
290
Miami, FL
DE
6'5"
210
Miami, FL
WR
6'2"
180
Miami, FL
RB
6'0"
225
Hollywood, FL
TE
6'4"
210
Frisco, TX
STR
6'3"
190
Melbourne, FL
S
5'11"
200
Miami, FL

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