A week removed from Donovan McNabb’s remarks about black quarterbacks, the nation prepares for another weekend of pro football, a game segregated by position.
For the sake of argument, consider the rule, and not the exception. Kickers and punters are white. Running backs (excluding the “throwback” blocking types) are black. Receivers are mostly black. Quarterbacks, as McNabb noted, remain predominantly white.
Still, a single black quarterback would be one more than the number of starting white cornerbacks.
“I may have been the last,” says Jason Sehorn, who retired four years ago.
Then again, if in fact the white cornerback is a dead species, it wouldn’t bother Sehorn too much. It is not, at least in his mind, a civil rights question.
Still, as former player, there’s something in Sehorn that feels obligated to qualify his answer.
“I’ve never been in McNabb’s shoes,” he says.
Translation: I’ve never been a black quarterback.
He has, however, been a white cornerback. And one can’t help but wonder why the very idea has become such an anomaly. How many white kids from junior high through college were down-shifted, as it were, from corner to safety and from safety to linebacker in anticipation of a career at the next level?
Like most questions involving race and sports, these may be impossible to answer, but nevertheless worth asking. White cornerbacks lack the same historical baggage black quarterbacks have to carry, but by the same token, is there not a presumption against them? Didn’t Jason Sehorn have to do “a little extra” to prove himself?
“No,” he says.
He believed he was a cornerback. And that’s how he made his career, six years as a starter, the last white corner of any consequence since Atlanta’s Scott Case back in the ‘80s. If a single play could illustrate Sehorn’s virtues as an athlete, it would be his interception of McNabb in a playoff game on Jan. 7, 2001.
From Bill Pennington’s story in the New York Times: “As McNabb let go of the ball, Sehorn, who had been retreating in coverage, broke forward and dived for the pass a few feet in front of (Torrance) Small. Sehorn got his hands on the ball, but he fell to the ground, rolling onto his back as he bobbled the ball. Lying on the grass and looking up, Sehorn batted the ball in the air, then caught it with two hands even as he was rising to run the other way.
“With the ball tucked under his arm, Sehorn quickly made a move to elude a Philadelphia lineman, then outraced McNabb to the corner of the end zone.”
“I’ve never seen an interception like that,” said Jim Fassel, the Giants coach.
“It was instinct,” Sehorn said after the game.
Instinct? According to the ever-prevailing stereotypes, such instinct and athleticism is precisely what’s lacking in so many white players.