Marlin Briscoe will check the mailbox every day.
Maybe his gift from the White House will land on his Long Beach, Calif., doorstep while he's completing his morning crossword. Or as he's watching Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson throw another touchdown.
Maybe it will show up on Sept. 10, his 68th birthday. Or later. Briscoe waited a long time for history to find him. Why would his package from the president be any different?
Patience, though, continues to pay off for one of Omaha's greatest icons. A month ago, the former South High and Omaha University (now UNO) quarterback received a phone call from old Miami Dolphins teammate Marv Fleming.
It's happening, he said. We're going to Washington. The 1972 Dolphins remain the only team in NFL history to navigate a season undefeated. They reunite every few years, including 2012 for the 40th anniversary. But they were never honored at the White House. Super Bowl winners didn't meet the president in those days.
Fleming, after a year trying, had finally pulled the right strings. So Briscoe, who retired two years ago from the Boys and Girls Club, boarded a flight to D.C. The Dolphins owner put him up in a lavish hotel. He dined and reminisced with his old teammates.
“Some guys haven't changed,” Briscoe said. “We were a pretty tight-knit team.”
Briscoe is not the most famous Dolphin — five offensive starters went on to the Hall of Fame, most notably Larry Csonka and Paul Warfield. But Briscoe was an All-Pro in 1970 and led the '72 Dolphins with four touchdown receptions.
And before that, Oct. 6, 1968, he became the first black quarterback to start an NFL game. That season, he made five starts for the Broncos and threw 14 touchdowns. Not bad for a rookie.
But Briscoe never got another shot. Denver released him and in 1969, the Buffalo Bills moved him to receiver. For decades, Briscoe's achievement as a quarterback was a footnote in history, treated as mere trivia.
Only in the past decade has Briscoe's legend emerged. He wrote an autobiography. He appeared in a Nike commercial with stars like LaDainian Tomlinson, Deion Sanders and Michael Vick. He's the subject of a movie, currently in production stages.
A younger generation of broadcasters and journalists has discovered his story for the first time. Earlier this month, “60 Minutes Sports,” a program on Showtime, featured Briscoe during a segment on black quarterback pioneers.
“Marlin the Magician” has always thought of himself as a quarterback. But had he stayed at the position, he wouldn't be associated with the greatest team of all time. He wouldn't have been invited to Washington for the first time since his playing days.
Much has changed in 40 years. Doug Williams led the Redskins to a Super Bowl win in 1987. Now Robert Griffin III is the face of the franchise.
Tuesday morning Briscoe boarded a bus from the Westin to the White House. He passed through security, took the official tour, saw all the old portraits. Then he entered the Green Room, one of about 30 gray-haired men in aqua blazers.
A door opened. President Obama shook their hands one-by-one. And when he got to Briscoe, Marlin reached out his hand and introduced himself. The first black president already knew.
“You're a trailblazer,” Obama told him.
He told Briscoe he'd seen the 60 Minutes piece two weeks ago. You set the tone for these young black quarterbacks now, Obama said.
“One of the highlights of my life,” Briscoe said.
The Dolphins filed into the East Room for the official ceremony, standing behind Obama.
“I know that some people may be asking why we are doing this after all these years,” Obama said. “My answer is simple: I wanted to be the young guy up here for once.”
Some of the faces are a little harder to recognize, Obama said, without “the Afros, the mutton chops, the Fu Manchus.”
The Dolphins presented Obama a jersey — No. 72, of course — and then the team dispersed, spreading across the country until the next reunion.
Briscoe left the White House and passed by the Lincoln Memorial, where 50 years ago this weekend, Martin Luther King's voice echoed, “I have a dream.” He boarded his plane bound for the West Coast and returned to his routine.
At 5 a.m., he wakes up and grabs his two newspapers. He drinks his coffee and starts his crossword. He reflects.
One of these days, a package will arrive from the other edge of America — 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. It's a copy of a book, which he carried to Washington and handed to a White House staffer, requesting that Obama sign it and send it back.
“The first black quarterback,” by Marlin Briscoe.
Maybe the president will read what's inside.