Paying homage to one of the greats: Marlin Briscoe statue unveiled on campus

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Andrew Nelson
REPORTER

The University of Nebraska at Omaha unveiled a statue at its Baxter Arena to honor a campus legend, Marlin “The Magician” Briscoe. The statue, designed by local artist and sculptor Joe Putjenter, was shown to a couple hundred people in attendance at Baxter Arena.

Briscoe, who grew up in South Omaha, has become a local sports legend, but it wasn’t at all easy.

Growing up “in the South Omaha projects a block and a half from the packing house,” Briscoe faced many challenges as a young athlete. “There were black projects and white projects,” Briscoe said in an Omaha World Herald article. “The demarcation line was 33rd Street. If you went west of there, (a black kid) was probably going to find a fight.”

Briscoe, a 1967 graduate of then Omaha University, accumulated 5,114 passing yards, 53 touchdowns and as set 22 school records in his time at the now University of Nebraska at Omaha. Briscoe will be inducted to the National College and High School Football Halls of Fame in 2016. “The Magician” is already a part of the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame, Omaha Sports Hall of Fame, Nebraska Black Sports Hall of Fame and the UNO Athletics Hall of Fame.

“The Magician,” named after his abilities to evade tackles and get out of jams, was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 1968 and took the field later that season against the Boston Patriots, under center to become the first-ever African-American starting quarterback. In just the second drive of the game he drove the Broncos down the field 80-yards and ran in a score himself from 12-yards out.

After passing for 1,697 yards, 14 touchdowns with the Broncos, Briscoe left Denver after one season. Briscoe asked for his release after finding out Denver was planning on starting a different quarterback that year. Determined to be the signal-caller, Briscoe asked for his release and was picked up by the Buffalo Bills where he would spend the majority of his playing career, but not as a quarterback.

Briscoe was converted to a wide receiver and led the Bills in touchdown catches in three seasons and twice in receptions. Briscoe, a 14th-round pick in 1967, was traded in 1970 to the Miami Dolphins for a first-round pick which ended up being NFL Hall-of-Fame guard, Joe Delamielleure. Briscoe saw a lot of success in South Beach winning a pair of Super Bowls and being a crucial part leading the greatest NFL team of all-time. Playing for the undefeated 1972 Dolphins, Briscoe led in touch-down receptions in both season, edging out teammate and future Hall-of-Fame wideout Paul Warfield by three catches in 1973.

Briscoe finished his career with a few one-year stints with the San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots. Briscoe now lives in Long Beach, California where he is retired after a successful career as a financial broker dealing municipal bonds in the 1980’s after his football career ended. Briscoe is now the director of the Boys and Girls Club in Long Beach and the founder of a football camp for local kids in the area.

Briscoe’s statue is now outside of Baxter Arena, home to UNO’s winter sports teams.

The statue represents a combined past and present history of UNO sports with UNO men’s basketball player Tra-Deaon Hollins serving as the model for the sculptor.

Briscoe is proud to represent UNO’s football history. “People can see this and realize that there was a proud tradition at this school,” Briscoe said. “Maybe the statue will be a reminder of what we were.”

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