A quarter century ago – to the day – ESPN.com senior writer Greg Garber was covering Super Bowl XXII in San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium for the Hartford Courant. Feature producer Michael O’Connor was seven years old.
“I remember watching the second quarter and being delighted because I could write my story at halftime,” said Garber, 55, recalling the Washington Redskins’ 42-10 romp over the Denver Broncos.
“If I watched the game, I sure don’t remember it,” said O’Connor, 32.
Today, Garber and O’Connor are finalizing their Sunday NFL Countdown (Sunday, 10 a.m. ET, ESPN) feature on that game and more specifically, on MVP Doug Williams, who not only led the Redskins to victory, but made history in the process. Williams became the first African-American Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Current Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III narrates the piece (clip above, photos below). Garber gladly surrendered his usual on-air reporter role for the guest voice. (Garber also wrote an article for ESPN.com on the topic.)
“Originally, we thought it would be cool to get a voice like Denzel Washington, Sam Jackson or James Earl Jones, but we eventually realized that RG III was the perfect guy,” Garber said.
“You can read what happened in five minutes on the Internet, but Greg was able to provide thinking beyond what is on the record,” O’Connor said. “Greg had a great understanding of what questions needed to be asked, and his interview with Doug provided outstanding answers.”
Research for the seven-minute piece included traversing the country for interviews with the likes of then-Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, Williams’ coach Joe Gibbs, African-American sports sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards and the Rev. Al Sharpton, a veteran of the civil rights movement.
In addition, Williams was filmed revisiting Qualcomm Stadium — formerly known as Jack Murphy Stadium — site of his Super Bowl heroics.
“’O.C.’ [O’Connor] gets credit for thinking of this and executing RG III’s commitment,” Garber said. “We wrote the script together with the idea that RG III would be reading the tracks. Near the end of the piece, he provides his own thoughts about his debts to Williams — after all, he plays the same position in the same city as Williams did.”
ESPN Classic airs a vintage episode of “Up Close” featuring Doug Williams today at 5 p.m. ET