The black quarterback runs the ball well but faces questions about his passing skills.
The white quarterback has a reputation for being a good passer but faces questions about his running ability.
Penn State's quarterback battle between Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin offers a classic example of racial stereotypes that have been commonplace in football for decades.
The assumption that the black quarterback, in this case Clark, is a better runner than thrower remains deeply rooted in the minds of many football fans. Some fans may not realize they are consciously making such an assumption, but the black quarterbacks who frequently have to answer questions about the topic know first-hand the negative perception exists.
''We still have that stereotype,'' Clark said. "That's sad. That's really sad because I've been a quarterback since I was 6 years old, so I know for a fact what I can do with the ball. Anybody can run, but I can really throw the ball.''
Clark has insisted so repeatedly for the past seven months - since he and Devlin have been the frontrunners to succeed Anthony Morelli as PSU's starter - yet he gets asked at least once a week about his arm.
''Not really black this, white that,'' he said of the wording. ''Usually not that. You usually don't get those type of comments said directly in your face.''
Instead, he said, the comments typically are veiled as to whether he'll be as good of a passer as he is a runner. Some of that stems from Clark showing strong running skills while not having a chance as a backup to throw much the past two years, but he believes the lingering doubts also may have something to do with the color of his skin.
''It's sad that it's like that,'' Clark said, ''but that's just the way it is.''
The nation's foremost expert on race relations in sports, Dr. Richard Lapchick, acknowledged the doubts about Clark's passing abilities are not unusual for black quarterbacks. Lapchick is director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida and co-authors the annual Racial and Gender Report Card for various sports leagues.
''Even though there no longer seems to be an issue of whether African-Americans can be quarterbacks at the elite college level as well as in the NFL, we still tend to stereotype our quarterbacks by thinking of the black quarterback being a runner and white quarterbacks being passers in pockets and not so mobile,'' Lapchick said. ''Sometimes that's true, and like all stereotypes, often it's not.''
As is the case with many stereotypes, the long-held perception of the black quarterback has been tough to dismiss.
CHANGE COMES SLOWLY
Clark, a redshirt junior widely believed to be the leading candidate to start for Penn State, is hardly the first black quarterback subjected to pessimism about his passing skills.
It's been 20 years since Doug Williams became the first and only black starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and he said society still has yet to reach the point of color blindness with signal callers.
''If we had gotten to that point, you wouldn't even be talking to me,'' Williams, who now works for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said when asked to analyze the current football landscape.
Williams led the Washington Redskins to a 42-10 blowout of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII in 1988 and was named the game's Most Valuable Player. He dispelled the black quarterback perception by doing all of his damage with his arm, passing for 340 yards and four touchdowns while running for minus-2 yards.
A number of other black quarterbacks have excelled throwing the ball, most notably Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon, who passed for 70,553 yards between stints in Canada and the NFL. Steve McNair came within 1 yard of going to overtime in the Super Bowl with the Tennessee Titans in 2000, and Donovan McNabb's Philadelphia Eagles lost the Super Bowl by just three points in 2005.
Despite those success stories, the image of Michael Vick scrambling to make big plays with his legs often remains what some football fans inherently expect to see from a black quarterback.
Williams said that stereotype ''just has to go away,'' and though it still may be a while before it happens, he added ''great strides'' have been made in that direction.
''The reason why I say that, when I first came into the league in 1978, they used to say 'Tampa Bay's black quarterback,''' Williams said. ''They don't put that adjective in it now. They will say 'Philadelphia's quarterback.' They say 'Washington's quarterback.' They don't say 'Washington's black quarterback.'
''So I think we've made some steps in the right direction. I think there's some more steps that need to be made.''
One way to make those steps, Williams believes, is something Penn State has done with Clark.
When a black quarterback is not the starter, Williams thinks he should remain there as a backup or even third-stringer rather than move to another position. That would build depth in the black quarterback ranks, ultimately leading to more opportunities, but it hasn't happened because coaches have made players switch positions to utilize their athletic skills elsewhere on the field.
''The sad part about it is that if you're an African-American quarterback and you aren't the starter, very seldom do you end up being the backup or the third guy,'' Williams said.
The Nittany Lions could have moved the athletically gifted Clark to running back, receiver or another position since they already had Morelli as a two-year starter and Devlin, a prized recruit who set Pennsylvania passing records, waiting in the wings. That didn't happen because quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno promised Clark when he recruited him that he would remain at quarterback.
Paterno has been a vocal supporter of Clark's and lobbied his father, head coach Joe Paterno, to use the backup more last season to give defenses a change of pace from Morelli. JoePa was hesitant to do that too often, and on the rare occasions Clark did get in games, it usually was so he could run the ball.
The younger Paterno knows he and Clark may continue to face skepticism about the quarterback's passing ability. He also knows one reason why.
''You know why we get those questions,'' Jay Paterno said, ''and I'm not going to get into that because hopefully as a society we can get past that. And I think it's time that we get past it. I'm a big believer in content of your character and not color of your skin. Martin Luther King said it 40 years ago.''
Fast forward, JayPa continued, ''In August of 2008, we're going to have an African-American presidential nominee, and he had to beat a woman to get there. So I think as a country we're heading the right way.''
Perhaps, but ...
TROUBLING QUESTIONS STILL NORM
Michael Robinson, a black quarterback, led Penn State to an 11-1 record and No. 3 ranking in 2005. He earned the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honor and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Robinson threw for 2,350 yards and 17 touchdowns, and as he prepared for the NFL draft, Jay Paterno was asked for scouting reports.
''One of the things that disappointed me the most was some of the questions I got from NFL scouts about Mike Robinson, [like] well, you know, work ethic and how smart is he,'' Jay Paterno said.
Those two negative stereotypes often accompany the perception that black quarterbacks are primarily runners. The two also can be more damning because they question the player's intelligence - which comes into play studying film and reading defenses - as well as his desire.
''I finally said to one of the scouts, 'Look, the guy got his degree in three-and-a-half years, he got another degree in four-and-a-half years. He's first in the film room, he's the last out,''' Jay Paterno said. ''I said, 'There are no questions about him,' and I said, 'If you've ever read anything on him, you'd know that.'''
Robinson, who didn't return several phone messages seeking an interview, did get drafted in 2006, going to the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round. Most teams thought he was best suited for running back in the NFL, and while he had played there occasionally as an underclassman at Penn State, he was not overly familiar with the position.
''I've never practiced at running back,'' Robinson said before last season. ''In college, I didn't know I was going to be the starting running back until maybe the Thursday or Friday before a game. I never practiced at it. I would go out there and just play.''
Robinson wasn't thought of as a great passer at Penn State as he completed just 52.1 percent of his attempts during the 2005 campaign. Two throws he made early that season, however, were the most important completions the Lions have had since they went undefeated in 1994.
Penn State trailed at Northwestern, 29-27, in the closing minutes during the fourth game of 2005 and faced fourth-and-15 from its own 15 with 1:39 to play. Robinson kept the drive alive by hitting tight end Isaac Smolko over the middle for 20 yards. Then with 51 seconds left, Robinson connected on a 36-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline to Derrick Williams that helped the Lions escape with a 34-29 win.
That game, and more importantly those two throws, jumpstarted PSU to the 11-1 season. Robinson made countless big plays with his legs that year, but the impact his arm made on the team's success and his college legacy cannot be overlooked.
''To this day, I hear fans say, 'Well, Mike wasn't a great passer,''' Jay Paterno said. ''I say he made a lot of throws to win a lot of games for us.''
Robinson also set the bar at Penn State when it comes to a quarterback establishing leadership of a team. The inability to lead is yet another stereotype occasionally placed on black quarterbacks, but it couldn't have been further from the truth with the Lions in 2005.
''Mike reeked of leadership,'' Clark said. ''That's one thing that really stood out about him. He took command of the offense. ... He let everyone know that when times get tough, [he was] going to get us through.''
That leadership and building of trust, Clark added, is ''what I'm working on now.''
SOMETHING TO PROVE?
Penn State fans may not know much about Clark's passing skills, but he's already proven himself to his teammates.
''I'm just impressed with how well Daryll can throw the ball because everyone gets this image that he can only run,'' receiver Deon Butler said.
''He has a very strong arm,'' Derrick Williams said.
''Strong arm, quick release,'' offensive coordinator Galen Hall said.
Ask Clark about his arm, and there's no hesitation in his emphatic response.
''I can throw the ball,'' he said. ''There's not a route that I can't throw. I have decent arm strength, and I can put the ball there on time.''
The 6-foot-2, 231-pounder threw for 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns his senior season at Ursuline High School in Youngstown, Ohio. He has appeared in 15 games the past two seasons for Penn State but has attempted just 36 passes, completing 20 for 147 yards.
Clark has carried the ball 27 times for 126 yards and five scores. He was most impressive in the 2007 Alamo Bowl win over Texas A&M, gaining 50 yards on six attempts and scoring the game-tying TD on an 11-yard run.
The one thing Clark may want to do most this season - prove to everyone he is a good passing quarterback - is the one thing he should not try to do, Derrick Williams said.
''What I told Daryll is to win games,'' the senior receiver said. ''If he's got to run, run. If he's got to throw, throw. Daryll can throw, Daryll can run.
''What I think happens is guys want to prove people wrong,'' Williams added. ''You don't prove people wrong; you play within yourself. Donovan McNabb made plays throwing and running. So don't just try to prove to somebody that you can throw. Be yourself and make plays.''
Doug Williams would offer similar advice if given the chance, and the Super Bowl-winning quarterback has extended an invitation to Clark to contact him if he needs any advice. Williams was in South Bend, Ind., last month for Joe Paterno's Hall of Fame enshrinement and had a conversation with Jay Paterno about Clark.
''I gave him a card and told him to have the kid e-mail me,'' Doug Williams said.
Clark said he does intend to take Williams up on his offer. What kind of advice can Clark expect to receive?
''The most important thing is he's got to follow what the coaches want him to do and try to be the best at what they want him to do,'' Williams said.
''I would hope that he wouldn't get into that mode of proving to people as much as proving to himself. People are always going to have their own assumption of you, and I think when you get into a world of trying to prove to people, you kind of put yourself up against a wall. It's most important that you take care of yourself first.''
Clark understands the barriers broken down by black quarterbacks like Williams and Moon. The latter is his favorite player, and Clark said he would be wearing No. 1 at Penn State in honor of Moon had that number not been taken by cornerback Justin King.
Clark decided on No. 17 in part because it was Williams' number, something Jay Paterno told Williams when they met in South Bend. Clark called Williams ''very, very, very special'' and added, ''He's done a lot for the black quarterback.''
Now Clark can't wait for his opportunity to do a lot as Penn State's starting quarterback.
''The time is now,'' he said. ''The position is there.''
IT'S ALSO UP FOR GRABS
Devlin is competing with Clark for the starting job, and he has his own quarterback stereotype to overcome.
The 6-4, 222-pound redshirt sophomore from Downingtown gets asked the opposite questions as Clark. He set the state high school career passing record with 8,162 yards, but like many white quarterbacks before him, Devlin is frequently asked about his mobility and running skills.
''Daryll can throw the ball, and I can run the ball a little bit,'' Devlin said. ''I've never said that I was a track star or anything, but I can move around in the pocket.''
Clark can attest to that.
''He's pretty elusive; I'll give that to him,'' Clark said. ''He's not slow. He can run the ball. ... I would say he's a passer more than a runner, but if he has to run, he can do it.''
When discussing the prototypical quarterback, the version that comes to mind for many is a Peyton Manning or Dan Marino type of player. He's white and tall with a strong arm, does most of his damage in the pocket and seldom looks to run, in part, because of questionable speed or athleticism.
Numerous star white quarterbacks, like Joe Montana, have contradicted that stereotype, yet it still exists.
''Steve Young was a good athlete playing quarterback,'' Doug Williams said. ''John Elway was a good athlete playing quarterback. Brett Favre in his time was a good athlete playing quarterback. ... So when you talk about stereotyping or trying to single out, it is no different.''
Devlin may have even more questions than normal to answer about his mobility because of the previous starting quarterback at Penn State. Morelli often looked lost outside of the pocket, fumbled numerous times on the run and finished his career with minus-121 yards rushing.
''He'll be a better runner than people [think],'' Hall said of Devlin.
Fans don't know what to think yet of the former prep star, who was rated the No. 4 quarterback recruit in the country by scout.com but has yet to see significant game action for Penn State. He appeared in mop-up duty three times last year and was 0-for-1 passing with no rushing attempts.
''I expect [people] to wonder,'' Devlin said. ''I haven't been out on the field yet, so it's just natural for them to wonder if I can run or not.''
Devlin was heavily recruited primarily because of his arm rather than his legs, and he chose Penn State after backing out of a verbal commitment to Miami. To achieve success, it may not be as important for him to prove he can run as much as it is for Clark to prove he can throw.
The versatility of both quarterbacks makes the decision on who will start tough for Joe Paterno. The legendary coach has refused to get into specifics about either player's skills and said he may not decide on the full-time starter until three or four weeks into the season after giving both quarterbacks a fair chance.
They may be of different races and backgrounds and face different stereotypes, but Devlin has said repeatedly there are not a lot of differences between him and Clark when they step on the field.
''I think we're both good quarterbacks,'' Devlin said.
Cory Giger is at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org