Kelly Darden | Staff Writer

2012 marked a darker era for the National Footlball League, quite literally.

This season, the NFL featured a dominance of black quarterbacks, which hasn’t been seen in years.

Every Sunday fans were tuning in, not just for the Tom Brady’s, Peyton Manning’s and Ben Roethlisberger’s, but a new wave of younger and browner faces. Among these faces were Robert Griffin III, N.C. State alumnus Russell Wilson, and the now Super Bowl featured, Colin Kaepernick.

This trio of new starters was impressive, not only because they played at the highest position, but also because they did it well.

Combined, Griffin, Wilson, and Kaepernick completed a total of 72 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and finished the regular season with a record of 31-16-1. RG-III finished third and Wilson fourth only behind Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning for the highest quarterback rating of this season.

Kaepernick in particular plays a special role in this year’s Super Bowl. He will be the face of the San Francisco 49ers as they take on the Baltimore Ravens. If the 49ers come out victorious, Kaepernick will make history as the second black quarterback to hold a Vince Lombardi trophy, awarded after each Super Bowl.

Kaepernick walks in the shadow of trailblazer Doug Williams, the first African American quarterback to play in and win a Super Bowl game. Williams secured this place in history with the Washington Redskins in 1987; the team’s current black quarterback, RG-III, wasn’t born until three years later.

In an interview with Jim Corbett of USA Today, Griffin spoke on the role his race plays in his career. “I am an African American in America,” said Griffin, “That will never change. But I don’t have to be defined by that. We always try to find similarities in life, no matter what it is so they’re always going to try to put you in a box with other African American quarterbacks… [But] that’s the goal. Just to go out and not try to prove anybody wrong but just let you talents speak for themselves.”

Though Griffin does not want to be defined by his race, it can’t be overlooked, as it makes him unique.

The higher you are in power, the more of a target you become and these quarterbacks are no exception. Such is the case for Wilson and RG-III who have both had their “blackness” questioned.

Both men have faced public ridicule for their relationships with white women. Russell’s wife is white and Griffin is engaged to a white woman. ESPN’s “First Take” has even featured a segment on the issue, where analyst Rob Parker eluded to the idea that Griffin may be a “cornball brother” and not “down with the cause.”

While we still have an uphill battle against racial views from other ethnic groups, we cannot afford to have the same come from within our own community. “Blackness” should not be defined by whom you marry, how you behave or any other trait, but by the fact that you are accepting of who you are as an individual.

Good or bad, athletes and other public figures serve as unelected representatives of the face of the black race. When fans and commentators alike praise them both on the field and off field, their value to the community is always higher than most recognize.