DENVER — This year, the Denver Broncos named Mateo Kambui as the first Marlin Briscoe Diversity Coaching Fellow.
The fellowship is named in honor of the first Black quarterback to start during the Super Bowl era, Marlin Briscoe.
“The strength and the faith that he had in his ability as a player was incredible,” Kambui said. “He played the quarterback position when there weren’t really any minorities playing the quarterback position, especially starting.”
Kambui said when Briscoe started during the Broncos 1968 season, he opened doors for future Black quarterbacks and others interested in leadership positions within the NFL like himself.
But before Kambui started out on his professional coaching journey, he planned to take a break from football.
After playing center for Florida A&M’s football team, he wanted to explore other career options, but ultimately he just couldn’t walk away.
“I spent a year away from football, but came back as a graduate assistant, working with the offensive line,” Kambui said.
Kambui said his coaches saw him as a coach before he did.
“I had a couple of coaches when I finished playing say 'You should coach'. Then I realized how much football has helped me in my life,” Kambui said. “For me, it was all about change and the impact you can make on people — that’s really what got me into it.”
As the Marlin Briscoe Diversity Coaching Fellow for the Denver Broncos, Kambui is responsible for breaking down film, preparing scouting reports and helping the offensive coaching staff.
“I’m happy to be a part of the club,” Kambui said.
He is also aware of what his presence as a member of the team means.
As of 2021, almost 70% of NFL players are players of color, but just 35% of assistant coaches are coaches of color, and out of 32 teams in the NFL, there are just five head coaches of color.
“Coaches are underrepresented, minorities are underrepresented — so that’s something that kind of stuck out to me and allowed me to think about the profession in a deeper sense. It’s more than just football, it truly is,” Kambui said. “I think the more minority coaches you have — it's good for players to see… They’re seeing guys like themselves, who grew up like themselves, in a profession like this.”
When Briscoe started in 1968, the country was in turmoil and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was underway.
Despite having a good season, the Broncos replaced Briscoe the following year, a decision that is still considered to be controversial.
Now in 2021, as a new social movement is happening in the United States, Kambui said the timing of this fellowship isn't lost on him.
"Forty, 50 years later, it’s reflective of what happened then and the team is providing opportunities for minorities now," Kambui said.
As Kambui reflects on Briscoe's legacy, he is taking advantage of the opportunity he’s been given.
“We play football, we like to win games, but it’s a people business,” Kambui said. “The game has given me so much, so now it’s my turn to give back.”