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Roman Gabriel
Jersey #(s)
5, 18
Born August 5, 1940 (1940-08-05) (age 69)
Wilmington, North Carolina
Career information
Year(s) 19621977
NFL Draft 1962 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2
College North Carolina State
Professional teams
Career stats
TD-INT 201-149
Yards 29,444
QB Rating 74.3
Stats at
Career highlights and awards

Roman Ildonzo Gabriel, Jr. (born August 5, 1940 in Wilmington, North Carolina) is a former American football player. The son of a Filipino immigrant, he was the first Asian-American to start as an NFL quarterback and is considered by many to have been one of the best players at that position during the late 1960s and early 70s. At 6'4" and 235 pounds, he is considered the first truly big quarterback of the modern era. Gabriel attended and played high school football at New Hanover High School.


College career

A two-time All-American, and a two-time Two-time ACC Player of the Year (1960-61) he starred at quarterback for North Carolina State University in the early 1960s and finished his career holding virtually every Wolfpack passing record. An academic All-American, Gabriel saw his jersey retired and presented to him by North Carolina governor Terry Sanford on Jan. 20, 1962, at half-time of an NC State-Maryland basketball game in Reynolds Coliseum. As captain of his team Gabriel set 22 school and nine conference football records. He threw for 2,961 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also played baseball and was voted the best amateur athlete in the Carolinas. In a three-year career he passed for 20 touchdowns and ran for 15. Against Maryland in 1959 he completed 23 passes. The Atlantic Coast Conference’s 50th Anniversary Football Team was announced in 2003 and Gabriel was among the top 50 players in the history of the ACC to be listed.[1] Gabriel was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

The number one 1962 AFL Draft pick (Roman was chosen second in the 1962 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams), by the Oakland Raiders,[2] he went on to a distinguished professional career.


Gabriel's arm strength

Gabriel had an incredibly powerful arm. "Once against Duke, game film showed that he chucked a desperation pass 78 yards in the air - only to see it intercepted by a Blue Devil defender."[3]

Professional career

NFL career

Gabriel wore the number 18 with the Rams and the number 5 with the Eagles. In the professional ranks Gabriel went on to play 16 seasons in the NFL, splitting time with the Los Angeles Rams (1962-72) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1973-77). He was named the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 1969 and earned Pro Bowl spots in 1967, 1968, 1969, and 1973. He ranked as the Rams' all-time passing leader with 22,223 yards and 154 touchdowns (1,705 com./3,313 att.) and threw for 7,221 yards and 45 touchdowns (661 com./1,185 att.) with the Eagles. In 1973 he led the NFL with 3,219 yards and 23 touchdown passes, for which he was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. He still holds the Rams' career records for touchdown passes (154), passing yards (22,223), passes attempted (3,313), passes completed 1,705 and wins by a starting quarterback (74).

However, all that came with a cost. From 1962 through 1965, Gabriel had a difficult time securing a starting quarterback job. Ram coaches felt that either Zeke Bratkowski or Bill Munson should get the nod over Gabriel. However, due to other quarterback slumping or being injured, Gabriel did get to start 23 games from 1962 through 1965. The Rams record in those games was 11 wins, 11 losses, and one tie. That may seem average, but considering the other Rams quarterbacks who started the other 32 games combined record was a paltry three wins, 27 losses and two ties, it seems that Gabriel's record was stellar. Gabriel's wins seem to be quality wins as well. For example in 1965 he beat the eventual Champion Green Bay Packers and the 11-3 Cleveland Browns and barely lost to the strong Baltimore Colts team.

When George Allen came to coach the Rams in 1966, he knew that Gabriel was the best QB the Rams had and stated that Gabriel was one of the toughest quarterbacks to beat in the NFL. In 1966 the Gabriel started all 14 games and the Rams went 8-6, the first winning season since 1958. In 1967 things went even better, the Rams were 11-1-2 and in the playoffs. In consecutive weeks in the 1967 season Gabriel was named the AP Offensive Player of the Week, after week 13 and week 14, with top performances that put the Rams into the playoffs. Eventually, they lost in the miserable cold of County Stadium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to the eventual Super Bowl champions Green Bay Packers. Gabriel threw for 2,779 yards and 25 touchdowns and was a 2nd-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler. The following season they picked up right where they left off and finished 10-3-1, however this time they did not make the playoffs.

In 1969 the Rams opened the season with an 11-game winning streak, still a team record, before losing four straight at the end of the year, including another ice bowl to the Minnesota Vikings. Gabriel threw 24 touchdowns and only seven interceptions and was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player by the AP and NEA and the Player of the Year by the UPI and we was voted All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl.

Gabriel suffered knee injuries as well as shoulder and rib injuries through 1970-1972. Some of that led to the trade to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973. Gabriel went to a 2-11-1 Eagle team and turned them around to a 5-8-1 team that could have been 7-7 if they had not missed a couple of crucial field goals that would have changed the outcomes of several games. Gabriel was voted to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time and was voted the "Comeback player of the Year" by Pro Football Weekly. For the 1973 Season Gabriel led the Eagles with 270 completions, 460 attempts and 3,219 yards and 23 touchdowns (all league highs) as the Eagles offense was the most prolific passing game in the NFL.

Gabriel played though 1977 but his final two years were in a backup role. In his career he had a winning record of 86-64-7 and passes for over 29,000 yards and 201 touchdowns. He is the only quarterback from his era to still rank high in the "lowest interception percentage" category in NFL passing statistics—Meaning, quarterbacks today avoid throwing interceptions in a way similar to how Gabriel did it a generation earlier. His 3.3% interception percentage will likely last longer, and it may be some time before they can get Gabriel out of the Top 100 of all-time in that category.

World League of American Football (WLAF) career

He was the head coach of the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks of the World League of American Football, becoming the only coach to have a perfect losing season (0-10), in the inaugural season of 1991-1992. The team disbanded shortly thereafter.

Acting career

Gabriel had a brief career in movies, playing a prison guard in Otto Preminger's 1968 spoof Skidoo and an American Indian named "Blue Boy" in the 1969 John Wayne film The Undefeated. Gabriel's dark complexion gave rise to a popular belief that he may really be a Native American, but this is not the case; he is actually Filipino American on his father's side and Irish-American on his mother's. Gabriel had previously appeared as a headhunter in an episode of CBS' Gilligan's Island.

Personal life

After retirement from pro football in 1977, Gabriel went into broadcasting as a color commentator for CBS television and, later, Carolina Panthers radio. Committed to charity work in his home of Charlotte, North Carolina, he has raised over $4 million for charity through RG Sports Connection trust through which he promoted celebrity golf tournaments for various charities - multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, leukemia, the blind, the Special Olympics and the Salvation Army.

Gabriel was married to:

  • Lisa Katolin (29 October 1980 - present) 1 child
  • Tedra Bidwell (29 January 1972 - 6 August 1980) (divorced) 1 child
  • Suzanne Horton (1960 - 1971) (divorced)


Gabriel's last completion of his career was a 15-yard pass to Vince Papale, the walk-on WR and special-teams captain who is the inspiration for and subject of Disney's movie Invincible, starring Mark Wahlberg. In 1982 he was the last football coach at Cal Poly Pomona. [4]


See also


External links

Preceded by
Earl Morrall
AP NFL Most Valuable Player
1969 season
Succeeded by
John Brodie
Preceded by
First Rams MVP
Rams Most Valuable Player Award
Succeeded by
Merlin Olsen
Preceded by
Earl Morrall
NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award
Succeeded by
Joe Namath
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Peter Liske
Philadelphia Eagles Starting Quarterbacks
1973 – 1976
Succeeded by
Mike Boryla
Preceded by
Bill Munson
Los Angeles Rams Starting Quarterbacks
Succeeded by
John Hadl
Preceded by
Zeke Bratkowski
Los Angeles Rams Starting Quarterbacks
Succeeded by
Bill Munson


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