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Former Bronco Marlin Briscoe honored by alma mater with statue

Former Bronco Marlin Briscoe — who became the first black quarterback to start a game in professional football history — received honors from his alma mater last week.

The University of Nebraska Omaha, formerly known as the University of Omaha, unveiled a new statue for "Marlin the Magician" at Baxter Arena on Friday. Briscoe had set numerous records during his time there, including benchmarks for career passing yards (5,114), career touchdown passes (53), single-season passing yards (2,283), single-season touchdown passes (25) and many more.

The day before the statue's unveiling, Briscoe had been honored at "An evening with the Magician" at Baxter Arena. There he was joined by his former Broncos teammate and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Floyd Little, who told a story about how Briscoe saved his career.

Here's the scene, according to Little, the former Denver running back: The Broncos lead 31-29. Two minutes left. Little takes a handoff, runs outside, trips over a piece of sod and fumbles. Disaster.

Denver's coach fires him on the spot.

The Bills kick a go-ahead field goal, 32-31. When the Broncos get the ball back, Little makes a bold move. He returns to the huddle.

"Get off the field!" coaches yell. Little ignores them, turning to Briscoe, the gridiron pioneer from Omaha.

"You gotta help me," Little said. "Save me. Throw me a pass."

Briscoe rolls left, just like he did back at Omaha University, and heaves the ball 69 yards, according to Little.

"I went up between four defensive backs and three officials, and I caught the ball with one hand," Little said from the stage Thursday night at Baxter Arena.

The Broncos kicked the game-winning field goal, Little played his whole career in Denver and made the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"I never had the chance to publicly thank you, Marlin, for saving my career," he said.

Briscoe made his mark breaking through the color barrier with the Broncos, and then by remaking his career as a wide receiver winning back-to-back Super Bowls with the Dolphins. As the Omaha World-Herald noted, Briscoe is the only player in NFL history with 1,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards receiving.