On January 31, 1988, in San Diego, California, Doug Williams of the Washington Redskins—now known as the Washington Commanders—becomes the first African American quarterback to play in a Super Bowl, scoring four of Washington’s five touchdowns in an upset 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.
Denver was favored to win the game, and they started strong, as star quarterback John Elway threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Nattiel on the team’s first play from scrimmage. Williams injured his knee shortly thereafter and was replaced for two plays by Jay Schroeder. By the beginning of the second quarter, the Broncos were ahead 10-0. All that changed, however, when Williams and the Commanders began to obliterate the Denver defense, scoring 35 points in the quarter.
The scoring onslaught began with Williams’ 80-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Sanders, which tied a record for longest pass in a Super Bowl game. Williams scored three more touchdowns in the quarter, finding Gary Clark with a 27-yard pass, hitting Sanders again for 50 yards and finishing with an eight-yard toss to Clint Didier. For the fifth score of the quarter, Williams handed off to the rookie running back Timmy Smith and Smith headed along the right sideline for 58 yards into the end zone. Sanders and Smith set their own Super Bowl records that day: Sanders for receiving (193 yards) and Smith for rushing (204 yards).
Denver never recovered, as the Commanders scored once more in the second half to put the final score at 42-10. Though he downplayed the race issue of his legacy, Williams made history in more ways than one in Super Bowl XXII. His four touchdowns in the first half tied the Super Bowl then-record for most touchdowns thrown in an entire game. Also in the first half, he passed for 306 yards, just 25 short of the Super Bowl record for an entire game. Williams broke the record—set by Joe Montana in Super Bowl XIX—in the third quarter.