Jaren Hall made history Saturday as the first Black quarterback to start for Brigham Young University in its nearly 100-year history as a college football program.
“I am very proud of my ancestors, very proud of my ethnicity and all the things that come with that,” Hall, a redshirt freshman, told reporters earlier in the week. “So it is an honor and a privilege to be here and to be playing this sport at this wonderful university.”
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Hall, filling in for injured starter Zach Wilson in the Cougars’ loss to South Florida, was 15-for-23 with 148 passing yards and a touchdown. He led the team with 83 rushing yards and added another touchdown on the ground before being forced to leave the game with concussion-like symptoms.
BYU, privately owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, did not have an African American player on its football team until 1970, according to ESPN, despite beginning its program in 1922. It took until 1978 for the church to allow Black people to “participate in temple endowment or sealing ordinances,” according to the church, the same year it lifted the ban on black men joining the Mormon priesthood. According to BYU, only 1% of its current student population is Black.
Hall, whose father Kalin Hall was a running back for BYU in the early 1990s, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, much like the majority of the university’s student body. His brother KJ Hall also was a running back for BYU from 2015-17 before deciding to step away from football ahead of the 2018 season.
Black quarterbacks at all levels have faced the burden of proving that they belong. Warren Moon, the first African American quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, faced racism and was forced to begin his career in the Canadian Football League before getting an opportunity with the NFL’s Houston Oilers in 1984 at 28 years old. Earlier in his career, coaches tried to get Moon to change positions and doubted that he had the smarts and leadership ability to play the quarterback position.
Lamar Jackson, in his second year as the Baltimore Ravens’ starting quarterback, also received suggestions to switch positions throughout the draft process in 2018. In the Ravens’ Week 6 win over the Bengals, Jackson became the first player in the Super Bowl era to pass for 200 yards and rush for 150 yards in a regular-season game. He finished with 236 passing yards, 152 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.
Even in 2019, what’s been dubbed “The Year of the Black Quarterback” by The Undefeated’s Jason Reid, it’s still a struggle for Black quarterbacks to get their due (see: Colin Kaepernick).