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ATON ROUGE, La. -- A late summer morning and the sun was already harsh on the dusty high school football field. The shirtless blond 19-year-old in shorts stained with sweat kept dropping back to pass, his hands at times so wet it was hard to grip the ball. He was throwing to a friend, working "up the ladder," as it is called, starting with short passes and ending long.
But his mind wasn't totally on his receiver. He could feel the eyes of the man in the dark glasses who sat in a car on the other side of a chain-link fence, a hundred yards away.
The boy knew the man was watching. It had been subtly arranged. The National Collegiate Athletic Association does not allow tryouts, but if a college coach happens by a field where kids regularly throw the ball around, well, a coach may argue, where's the harm?
At that time, in July of 1996, Southern University, a football powerhouse among black colleges, desperately needed a quarterback, and the boy, Marcus Jacoby, badly needed a place to play quarterback.
After half an hour, the man in dark glasses, Mark Orlando, Southern's offensive coordinator, had seen enough and drove off.
It had gone well. The boy was invited to the coach's apartment, where after a short visit he was offered a full football scholarship.
The coach explained that the boy had a shot at the starting job, that the intended starter's poor grades had lost him his place on the team and that the two backups did not have the coaches' confidence.
"Sounds good," Mr. Jacoby, who had been a star at Catholic High, one of Baton Rouge's schoolboy powers, recalled saying. "But I have to think about it -- talk with my parents."
"Practice starts in four days," the coach responded. "We're going to need an answer soon."
Marcus Jacoby was unaware that if he accepted the scholarship, he would be the first white to play quarterback for Southern University.
And he would be the first white to start at quarterback in the 76-year history of the black Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Mr. Jacoby had grown up in Baton Rouge, and yet he knew practically nothing about Southern, had never even been to the other side of town to see the campus. Until that July day he had spent his life surrounded by whites.
The Business of How to Succeed
Southern's head coach, Pete Richardson, worked out of a modest wood-paneled office lined with trophies. In his three years there, he had turned a laughingstock into a national force. Southern won 11 of 12 games his first year, 1993, and two years later it was the No. 1 black college in the nation.
It is not easy for a black man to become a head coach. Despite his record, Mr. Richardson, 54, has never had an offer from one of the 114 Division I-A colleges; only three of them have black head football coaches.
In college he played at the University of Dayton, hardly a football school, and though he had limited natural talent, he reached the professional level, playing three years for the Buffalo Bills. He coached high school ball for a few years, then took the head coach job at Winston-Salem State in North Carolina. Finally, in 1993, he got his big break at Southern, which with its combined campuses is the largest historically black college in the nation. "I can't get caught up with the thought that, 'Hey, why shouldn't I be at Notre Dame?' " he said in an interview. "I can't get sidetracked or go around with a chip on my shoulder." He is a stoical man and expected stoicism from his players.
That day in his office, the Jacobys said, they were impressed by his quiet intellect, the way he measured his words, his determination. Indeed, the president of Southern, Dr. Dorothy Spikes, often said that she had hired Mr. Richardson over better-known candidates not just because his teams had been winners but because of his reputation for integrity, for running a clean program.
Coach Richardson and the Jacobys discussed everything from Southern's rich athletic tradition to the engineering courses that interested Marcus, but for a long while they didn't mention the thing that worried the parents most. The quarterback is team leader. Would a black team accept a white leader? Would the black campus? The night before, at the Jacobys' home in the upper-middle-class white Tara section of Baton Rouge, talk had become heated. "What if they don't like Marcus?" Marian Jacoby had said, tears in her eyes. "What if there's some kind of . . . action?" Marcus had not been able to sleep he was so upset.
Now his father, Glen, an environmental engineer, asked the coach, "How are you going to protect my son?"
The room went silent, Glen Jacoby said later. "I realize that you're concerned," Mr. Richardson began, "but I just don't think it will be that big a deal. Sure, there will be some adjustments from all sides. But Marcus will have the backing of the administration as well as the coaching staff."
Coach Richardson pointed out that there were other minorities on campus. He meant that of the 10,500 students, 5 percent were not black, but Mrs. Jacoby kept thinking about how it would feel to be in a stadium with her husband and 30,000 black fans.
The coach didn't say it to the Jacobys, but no one knew better than he about the strain Marcus would feel being in the minority. As a successful black man Mr. Richardson was used to the stares of surprise.
"Walking into a place with a suit and tie on, you're always going to get that second look because you're not supposed to be there." When he coached at Winston-Salem, he had a state government car. "Whites look at you and ask you what you're doing driving the state's car," he said. "You pull over to get some gas and people will address you the wrong way or policemen will look at you funny."
There was something else Mr. Richardson didn't say that morning: He was well aware how hostile Southern's fans could be to any newcomer, regardless of creed or color. Many had not wanted him hired. They felt he had come from too small a college; they had wanted a big name in black college football. They had even used race on him. Shortly after he arrived, a rumor started that Mr. Richardson's wife, who is light-skinned, was white, and that his white offensive coordinator was his wife's brother. None of it true, but Mr. Richardson didn't let it get to him. He knew the best answer was to win, and since he had done so, he was -- as Southern's registrar, Marvin Allen, liked to point out -- a campus god.
The coach thought he could make this Jacoby thing work. He wasn't sitting there fretting about whether Marcus could learn to be part of the minority. The first game was only six weeks away. As he would say later, he didn't have "ample time to find another black quarterback." Marcus would have to do what all good players did, what the coach himself had done: suck it up.
To reassure the Jacobys, the coach told them about his staff. Of six assistants he had hired when he started in 1993, two were white, one Asian. He was told Southern fans would never stand for that. But after his 11-1 debut season -- the year before they had been 6-5 -- a popular T-shirt on campus featured a photo of the integrated staff, with the phrase "In Living Color."
The parents wanted to think about it overnight, but Marcus did not. He climbed into his Jeep, he said later, and went riding. He was getting his shot, finally. There was nothing he loved like football. As a boy, when he couldn't find a friend, he tossed footballs into garbage can lids in his yard. His parents held him back in ninth grade, so he would have time to grow, and a better chance to play high school ball. After starring at Catholic, he went to Louisiana Tech, but there, prospects for playing were dim.
Now he envisioned a game night at Southern with a crowd cheering as he threw yet another touchdown pass. When he stopped at a red light, he lifted his head and at the top of his lungs screamed, "Praise God!"
Hard Work, or Privilege?
A billboard advertising
Southern University features a picture of Marcus Jacoby,
third from left.
Southern's decision to sign a white quarterback made headlines, first locally, then nationally, and the reaction of some whites he knew startled him. When Mr. Jacoby called his girlfriend to talk about it, her mother answered. "The niggers over there will kill you," he recalled her saying. "There are bullets flying all over the place. It's a war zone." When his girlfriend got on the phone, she said, "Marcus, I don't want you to call me again." To many on the white side of town, who had never visited this campus bustling with middle-class black students on the bluffs of the Mississippi, it was as if Mr. Jacoby had voluntarily moved to the ghetto.
Like many white Americans, he knew there was still prejudice -- though, he says, not at home. He had been raised to believe that, after generations of injustice, the country was now a fair place when it came to race, and he had made a few black friends while playing high school ball.
The Jacobys were considered a little eccentric for Baton Rouge, having moved here from California when Marcus was 3. His paternal grandfather was Jewish. His mother had attended Berkeley in the 1960's and still had some of the flower child in her. She was a fitness buff, and had even tried putting her family on a vegetarian diet, stocking the refrigerator with so many oat products that Marcus's buddies asked whether they owned a horse. Marcus and his sister at first attended a private school, but their mother felt too many children there were spoiled by wealth. So she taught them at home for five years, until Marcus was a sophomore.
Friends and teachers at Catholic High remember him as hard-working, smart and moralistic, with a strong Christian bent. "We'd make fun of his being so innocent," said John Eric Sullivan, one of his best friends. "By that I mean, he didn't do anything that most normal high school kids are doing. He'd be, 'Watch out, watch yourself,' when guys would be drinking. We'd say, like, 'Marc, relax, man.' " He told them he was waiting until he was 21 to drink.
The Southern coaches were impressed with his arm and had never seen a quarterback learn Coach Richardson's complex offense so fast.
Mr. Jacoby stayed to do extra throwing and often studied game films well past midnight. Southern at times uses a no-huddle offense, meaning the quarterback has to call plays rapidly right at the line, and Coach Richardson felt that of the three candidates, only Marcus Jacoby knew the system well enough to do that. Within days of arriving, he was first string.
That sparked anger among many of his new black teammates. For over a year they had been friendly with the two quarterbacks now relegated to backup, and they resented the newcomer, complaining that he had not earned his stripes. "He was given his stripes," said Virgil Smothers, a lineman. "There was a lingering bitterness."
Several felt the decision was racial. "It just became the fact that we were going to have this white quarterback," said Sam George, a quarterback prospect who was academically ineligible that year. "It wasn't about ability no more." Teammates picked at Mr. Jacoby's weaknesses -- he didn't have "fast feet" and rarely scrambled -- and joked that he was the typical bland white athlete, which angered Coach Richardson. "A lot of minorities, they want the flash," the coach said. "We felt we needed a system in order to be successful and a quarterback to operate within the confines of that system."
Except for the coaches, he was isolated. In the locker room, Mr. Jacoby recalled, "I would walk around the corner and people would just stop talking."
Even in the huddles there was dissension. Scott Cloman, a Southern receiver, recalled: "The minute Marcus was like, 'Everybody calm down, just shut up,' they were like: 'Who are you talking to? You're not talking to me.' You know, stuff like that. If it was a black person it wouldn't be a problem. They all felt that 'I'm not going to let a white person talk to me like that.' "
His entire time at Southern, Mr. Jacoby kept his feelings about all this inside, "sucking it up," repeatedly telling the inquiring reporters what a great experience it was being exposed to a new culture. "As soon as I signed and walked onto the campus," he told one interviewer, "I felt like part of the family. I definitely feel at home here."
School and Students in Step
Nicole Bengiveno/ The New York Times
When LSU student Marcus
Jacoby first went over to Southern University, he had to
crossover "the Hump" to get to the campus. Harding
Avenue leads into the campus and the hump goes over the
railroad tracks below.
Southern University families like the Morgans will take more than 20 people to an away game, filling several hotel rooms. Mo Morgan, a supervisor at the local Exxon plant who attended Southern in the 1960's, went so far as to buy a motor home just for Southern football, which made him the object of good-natured ribbing. Friends insisted that "black people don't drive Winnebagos." His wife, Wanda, and about 25 of their relatives are Southern graduates, and his youngest son, Jabari, a freshman drummer and cymbals player, was on the field for that same opening game.
For the youngest Morgan, the band was only partly about music. More famous than Southern's football team -- having performed at five Super Bowls and three presidential inaugurations -- it had real power and importance on campus.
The 180-piece Southern band thrived on intimidating lesser rivals on the black college circuit. With its hard-brass sound and its assertive style, the group had a militant edge that old-timers on campus attributed to the influence of the civil rights era, when the band's show was honed.
Robert Gray, who played cymbals with Mr. Morgan, said: "When people think about Southern band, they think about a bunch of big, tough-looking, tight-looking dudes with psychotic looks on their faces, ready to go to war. I just think -- Southern band -- black, all male, just rowdy, loud."
Families like the Morgans were fiercely proud of their school and its role in helping generations of blacks into the middle and professional classes -- even if the state had long treated it as second-rate. In the early 1900's, legislators planning to create a new campus for Southern considered several locations around Louisiana. But in city after city, white residents rose in protest, and finally the state settled on a site that no one else then coveted. In the 1950's, blacks like Audrey Nabor-Jackson, Wanda Morgan's aunt, were prohibited from attending the big white public campus across town, Louisiana State University. Southern was their only alternative.
Even as late as the 1970's, Louisiana's public higher education system was capable of inflicting deep racial wounds. Wanda Morgan was required to take several courses at L.S.U. as part of a master's program at Southern. In one class, she was one of four blacks, and for every exam, she said, the four were removed by the professor and put in an empty classroom across the hall, one in each corner, while the white students took the exam in their regular seats. The message was missed by no one: Black students would cheat.
By the mid-1990's, change was brewing. The year before Mr. Jacoby arrived, Southern and L.S.U. settled a 20-year-old federal desegregation lawsuit. Both institutions pledged sharp minority increases on their campuses, with 10 percent of enrollment set aside for other races -- more whites to Southern, more blacks to L.S.U.
Alumni like the Morgans were worried. Would Southern soon become just another satellite campus of L.S.U.? Was the white quarterback the beginning of the end?
Mo Morgan and Audrey Nabor-Jackson agreed with an editorial in Southern's student paper saying that a white quarterback did not belong. "There are plenty of young black athletes," it said, "who could benefit from Jacoby's scholarship."
Mo Morgan said, "I didn't like the fact that he was there." About the only Morgan not upset was Jabari. Mo Morgan worried that his 18-year-old son was not race-conscious enough. "I came through the movement, I was confronted with things," said the father. "That's one of the things that concerns me -- that he hasn't." But Jabari Morgan couldn't have cared less, he was so consumed with the band. Long before starting college, he had begun assembling on his bedroom wall what he called his shrine, a montage about the Southern band that included a picture of the first white band member, in the early 1990's.
Now, in his freshman year, his long-nurtured fantasy was coming true. Standing there that day with cymbals weighing nine pounds each, ready to march into Northwestern State's stadium, he was at the front of the band. The director, Dr. Isaac Greggs, always positioned his tallest and most imposing players -- his "towers of terror" -- at the front, and Jabari Morgan, at 6 foot 1, was one of them. Football, he said, was about the last thing on this mind.
"It was like winning the lottery."
He wouldn't have cared if Marcus Jacoby were purple, as long as Southern won and people stayed in their seats for the halftime show.
A Mutinous Beginning
Nicole Bengiveno/ The New York Times
Marcus plays the guitar at
Highland Park near his off campus home to relax and take
the weight off of his shoulders.
For fans, the quarterback, more than any other player, is the team -- hero or goat. During the second loss, Mr. Jacoby recalled, "I heard the entire stadium booing me."
Jean Harrison, the mother of the quarterback prospect Sam George, remembered, "One lady had a megaphone and she was screaming, 'Get that white honky out of there!' "
Chris Williams, an offensive lineman, believed that the other team hit Mr. Jacoby harder because he was white: "Teams took cheap shots at him. I really believe that. I mean they hit him sometimes blatantly late after the whistle." Scott Cloman recalled that after one Southern loss, opposing players said, "That's what you all get for bringing white boys on the field."
Mr. Jacoby was hit so hard and so often during the first game that he was hospitalized with a concussion.
Glen Jacoby, Marcus's father, was sure the blockers were sandbagging their white quarterback, but in interviews at the time, the young man denied it. He still says he believes that it was just the mistakes of an inexperienced line.
After Southern's second loss, an angry fan threatened Mr. Jacoby. A coach had to jump between them. For the rest of his career, Mr. Jacoby would have a police escort at games. There was a disturbance outside the stadium at another game. Gunshots were fired. Mr. Jacoby recalls thinking the shots were aimed at him.
The Tuesday after the second loss, Mr. Jacoby rose at 5 a.m., worked out in the weight room, then walked to the cafeteria for the team breakfast. No one was there. He checked his watch. Shortly after he sat down, Coach Orlando came in, took him by the arm and led him through a nearby door.
As Mr. Jacoby remembered it, the entire team and coaching staff sat squeezed into a small room. All chairs were taken, so he stood alone against a wall. No one looked at him. Coach Richardson stood. "I think Marcus should know what's going on," he said, adding, "Who wants to say something?"
Mr. Smothers, the senior defensive end, rose. The night before, he had talked about staging a strike. Now he mentioned some minor gripes, then added: "We're losing and we feel changes ought to be made. Some guys aren't getting a fair chance."
Someone else said, "Guys are playing who shouldn't."
Coach Orlando walked to the front. As offensive coordinator, he naturally worked closely with the quarterback. But several players felt he favored Mr. Jacoby because they were both white. "Let's get this in the open," Mr. Orlando said, adding, "This is mostly about Jacoby, isn't it?" Insisting that the quarterback had been chosen fairly, he said: "You have to accept Marcus, he's one of us. We're 0 and 2, but we have to put this behind us."
Lionel Hayes, who had lost the quarterback job to Mr. Jacoby, interrupted Coach Orlando. "You're just saying that," Mr. Hayes said, "because you're Jacoby's Dad." It got a laugh, though his tone was angry. Mr. Jacoby said later: "There was a lot of hate in that room. I felt like I was falling into a hole, and I couldn't grab the sides."
Coach Richardson spoke again: "We win as a team, we lose as a team. Jacoby's doing what he's supposed to be doing, and he'll get better. We all will." He said practice would be at 3. "If anyone doesn't want to be on the team with Jacoby as the starting quarterback, don't come."
Mr. Richardson remembered: "What I saw was a frustration by some players -- mostly seniors -- who weren't playing. They weren't playing because they didn't deserve to. And so they needed a scapegoat."
Mr. Jacoby remembers feeling like the invisible man. "It was almost as though I weren't there, and they were talking about me," he said. "I wasn't sure where to turn. I felt they didn't want me there -- not me personally, but any white quarterback -- that I was just another problem."
Three or four players didn't show up for practice, and Coach Richardson cut them. Not long afterward, Virgil Smothers and one of the coaches argued, and Mr. Smothers was told, "Clear out your locker."
When the players gathered the next day at practice, before the coaches arrived, Mr. Jacoby said, he stood to talk. A few tried to shout him down, but John Williams, a star senior cornerback and devout Christian who would go on to play for the Baltimore Ravens, rose and said, "Man, let the man talk."
"I don't care if you like me or hate me," Mr. Jacoby recalled saying. "All I ask is that we can go out and play football together. This is not a popularity contest. I'm trying to win. I'm just trying to be your quarterback."
Winning Works Wonders
Things improved dramatically. Southern won six of its next seven games, beating the two top-ranked black colleges, and was invited to the Heritage Bowl in Atlanta, the black college championship.
"I wasn't getting booed nearly as much," Mr. Jacoby said. Some teammates began warming to him. More than anything, they were impressed by his work ethic. During a practice break, players drank from a garden hose. "Sorry, Marcus," one teased, "this is the black water fountain." They called him "Tyrone," and "Rasheed."
"I appreciated it," he recalled. "Things had changed to the extent that some of the players were calling me 'the man.' "
Before games, he and John Williams prayed together. One Sunday the two went to the black church where Mr. Williams was a minister.
Occasionally strangers would wish Mr. Jacoby well. One day the band's legendary director, Dr. Greggs, greeted him warmly and urged him to persevere.
He felt he was developing real friendships with teammates and Southern students. When Scott Cloman needed a place to stay for a month, Mr. Jacoby had him to his parents' home and the two grew close. "Marcus was the first white person I ever really got to know," Mr. Cloman said. "I always felt a lot of tension around whites. I'd go into a store and I could just feel the tension. Sometimes you just feel like, 'I can't stand white people.' I didn't understand them. I really didn't want to be near them."
"His parents treated me like a son," added Mr. Cloman. Some players now joked when they saw him, "Where's your brother?"
"And some," he said, "called me 'white lover.' Didn't bother me. I had come to understand the Jacobys. A lot of times people fear what they can't understand. Because of being around the Jacobys my attitude toward whites in general changed."
Failure Is Not an Option
At the Heritage Bowl that first year, on national television, Southern took a 24-10 halftime lead against Howard University, then fell behind, 27-24. In the closing minute, Southern drove to Howard's 15-yard line. On third down, with 42 seconds left, Marcus Jacoby dropped back and, under pressure, threw off the wrong foot, floating a pass into the end zone.
"I heard the crowd gasp," he said. "I couldn't believe this was happening." He'd been intercepted. "Their fans must have cheered, but I remember everything being silent." A camera captured Coach Richardson on his knees, hands over his head.
"I dragged myself off the field and sat on a bench and buried my head in my arms," Mr. Jacoby said. "A few people, like John Williams, came by and patted me on the back, to be encouraging. But I heard, 'You screwed up real bad this time, whitey,' and, 'You're as dumb as they come.' It was the lowest point of my life."
After the game, Coach Orlando received an anonymous call: "If Jacoby ever plays for Southern again, we'll kill him -- and you." The coach said he averaged a threat a week that season. Later, as Coach Orlando and Mr. Jacoby headed to their cars, the coach pointed to several trees. In the light of the street lamps, Mr. Jacoby could see a yellow rope hung from each tree. The ropes were tied in nooses.
Eyes of Southern Are Upon Him
On campus, Mr. Jacoby struggled with all the daily irritations that go with being in the minority. As a white who grew up among whites, he was used to being inconspicuous. Here, he always felt on display. "I hated that," he said, "because it was like I had become just a novelty act."
He found that things he had done unconsciously all his life were suddenly brought to his attention and analyzed. One was the way he dressed. He liked to wear a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops to class; most students at Southern dressed up for class in slacks.
Another was that the way he spoke, his slang, was different from the black majority's. "Many times I would say something at Southern and they would repeat it and I wouldn't get my point across," he said. "It would get lost in the mocking of how I said it instead of what I said. I might walk into a room and I'd say, 'Hey, how y'all doin'?' " Instead of answering, someone would do an imitation of a white person talking, enunciating slowly. "They'd say 'Hi, guy, how are you doing?' So I just learned to say, 'Hey.' " He believed the classmates were only needling him, but being constantly reminded was exhausting.
"People's eyes were on him," said Chris Williams, a teammate, "He just didn't blend in. I mean, like me, I just blended in wherever I went."
A white with a different personality might have fared better. There was one other white on the 70-man squad, Matt Bushart. And though as a punter he was at the periphery of the team and little noticed by fans, Mr. Bushart had the personality and experience to cope better as a minority. While Marcus had seemed protected and naĀve even to the middle-class white students at Catholic High, Matt's years at a local public high school where most of his football teammates were black had taught him how to live comfortably among them. While Marcus was more introspective, a loner, a little too sensitive for some of his coaches' tastes, Matt was noisy, funny, sometimes crude -- so outgoing, his girlfriend said, that he could talk to a wall.
When Mr. Bushart's teammates made fun of the country music he liked, he gave it right back to them about their rap, and kept listening to his music. "I get kidded about it," he said, "but there's been a song that's been playing and one of the black guys will come by and say, 'Play that again, that's actually not too bad.' "
Mr. Jacoby loved music, too; playing guitar was an important outlet for relieving the pressure, but he would not play on campus. As he put it: "At times the rap just blared from the dorms; I longed for something that was my own. I couldn't play it on campus because for most of the time, I was apologizing for who I was. I didn't want to cause any more turmoil than there was. I didn't want to make myself look like I was any more separate than I was."
Interracial dating is complicated at Southern. Ryan Lewis, Mr. Jacoby's roommate, says most black men would not openly date a white woman on campus. "They would keep it low so nobody knew about it but them," Mr. Lewis said. "I've never seen it."
As quarterback, Mr. Jacoby often had female students flirting with him. He felt uneasy, caught between the white and black sides of town. Among whites, he said, "everybody just assumed the worst, that I was dating a black girl now because I was at Southern." But even though there were some "gorgeous light-skinned black girls over there," he said, and a couple of women from his classes became good friends, he wasn't attracted. He thinks it was "a cultural thing."
Though college students are confronted with new ideas -- sometimes only partially understood -- and encouraged to speak out about them, Mr. Jacoby felt that when he did, he was criticized. At first, in his African-American history class, when they discussed slavery, he said he tried to be conciliatory in an oral report. "I would say something like, 'I can't imagine how terrible it must have been, that people could do those kinds of things to other people.' And others in the class made some kind of jokes, but it was like bitter jokes: 'What are you talking about, Marcus? You're one of those whites.' It was like they were saying to me, 'Quit Uncle Tomming.' "
Then he worried he wasn't being true to his white roots. "I felt that I had lost my pride and the respect of friends that I had grown up with," he said. For his next oral report, he decided to speak his mind and said that it was unhealthy for blacks to dwell too much on past racial violence. "There have been tragedies like slavery throughout time," he said. "I don't think one is more important than any other." When he finished, he recalled, "there was an eerie silence and I saw at least three or four people glaring at me."
Increasingly, being in the minority alienated him, made him feel alone. "I learned early on that I was a pioneer in all this and no one else had gone through it and often the best advice I could get was from myself. Because I was the only one who knew the whole situation."
It didn't help that his preoccupied parents were going through a divorce. At one point when he was upset about not fitting in, his mother gave him a copy of "Black Like Me," the story of a white man in the 1960's who dyes his skin and travels the South to experience being black during segregation. At the time, Mr. Jacoby said, "I resented my mother giving me the book. I felt she was almost taking the other side."
One Fits, the Other Doesn't
Nicole Bengiveno/ The New York Times
Jabari Morgan in his
bedroom with snap shots from over the years of the
marching band covering his wall.
The Morgans have a family council of elders that meets regularly to guide their young, and one message emphasized is this: "A black person in America has to be smarter and sharper and work harder to achieve the same things as a white person of the same abilities." Mo Morgan says, as a minority, he understands that "the majority is white, and you have control and you want to keep control."
But Jabari Morgan did not think like his father.
He had always dreamed of attending Southern, but for him its great appeal was not as a racial sanctuary. He considered race simply part of the rough and tumble of life, the cost of doing business in a mostly white world.
Southern was the place where he might be able to play in the best marching band in America, as his father had before him.
He determined very early that the best high school marching bands, like the best college bands, were black, and so he fudged his address in order to attend a nearly all-black Baton Rouge school where the band rocked. He figured that that would give him an edge when he tried out at Southern.
As a marketing major who graduated in May, Mr. Morgan fully expects that he will one day work for a big white-controlled corporation. But as a marching band member at Southern for four years, he was in many ways the ultimate insider in the self-contained black-majority culture of the Yard, as Southern's campus is known.
All the things that Marcus Jacoby found so irritating were second nature to Jabari Morgan -- the music, the dress, the vernacular of put-downs and nicknames that is the campus currency. He loved African-American literature class because the poetry and stories reinforced what his family had taught him about black history.
Like all new band members, Mr. Morgan went through hazing. But as part of the majority, he never worried that it was about race. Mr. Jacoby, on the other hand, felt so unsettled as part of the minority that he often had trouble sleeping.
Mr. Morgan eventually joined a fraternity -- a support in its own way as strong as the band's.
And, where Marcus Jacoby the minority had no steady girlfriend during his years at Southern, Jabari Morgan the majority began, in his second semester, dating Monique Molizone, an economics major from New Orleans. She had also come to Southern partly for the band -- to join the Dancing Dolls, who perform at the band's side.
Comeback and Competition
Nicole Bengiveno/ The New York Times
Mark Orlando was one of
Marcus' football coaches when Marcus attended Southern
Again, he was first string, but he had competition. Sam George had returned from academic probation. Mr. George was a popular figure on campus, known for his hard-partying ways. Though he was only 5 foot 7, he had a strong arm and terrific speed.
His teammates, responding to his take-charge style in huddles, nicknamed him the Little General.
"And," Scott Cloman said, "he was black."
Although Mr. Jacoby started, Coach Richardson liked bringing in Mr. George when the team seemed flat. Both quarterbacks saw race as the true reason behind the coach's substitutions. Mr. Jacoby was convinced that Mr. Richardson was giving the black quarterback playing time to pander to the black fans; Mr. George was convinced that Coach Richardson -- influenced by Coach Orlando -- was starting the white quarterback because of favoritism.
Mr. George wound up playing in 5 of 12 games. By Southern's third game, against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, both quarterbacks were bitter. After winning its first two games, Southern was losing to Pine Bluff 7-6 at the half. Coach Richardson decided to replace the white quarterback with the black. Mr. Jacoby was devastated; he felt he was a proven winner and should not be yanked for one bad half.
Given his chance, Mr. George threw a last-ditch 37-yard pass that tied the game, and threw another touchdown in triple overtime for a 36-33 Southern win.
And yet, come Monday practice, Mr. Jacoby was the starter again. Now Mr. George was frustrated.
Southern had a 9-1 record going into its two final games. A victory in the next game -- the Bayou Classic, against Grambling, its archrival -- would assure a return to the Heritage Bowl and a chance for Mr. Jacoby to redeem himself. His parents and teammates had never seen him so obsessed. He had trouble sleeping and little appetite. His father called Coach Orlando, worried that Marcus's weight was down.
In a journal account of that period, Marcus Jacoby wrote: "I sat down and wrote out a detailed plan of how I was going to get through these last two games, including my political and motivational moves. My survival as a person depended on these last two games. Nobody, including Coach Orlando, knew the amount of outside forces that were pressing on these last two games. I was at a point where I felt that I was crawling on my knees."
He added, "I dreamed of a time when I could just say that I had accomplished something, instead of fighting for respect, fighting in a classroom full of people who disagreed with everything I stood for, and could have a day of true rest."
Before the big game against Grambling, he pleaded with Coach Orlando. "If you don't pull me," Mr. Jacoby said, "I guarantee we'll win our next two games."
"You can't guarantee that," the coach said.
"I just did," Mr. Jacoby said. Coach Orlando suggested that if Marcus Jacoby played a little more like Sam George, sometimes scrambling out of the pocket, he might be more effective. Mr. Jacoby felt that he was being told to become something he was not, but he was so desperate, so nervous about being yanked, that he followed the advice. He ran, and it worked. In a 30-7 win against Grambling, Mr. Jacoby threw three touchdown passes and played the entire game. He was named the Bayou Classic's most valuable player.
A month later he achieved his redemption, throwing the winning pass in a 34-28 Heritage Bowl victory over South Carolina State, capping an 11-1 season that earned Southern the black national championship. "I was happier than I had ever been at Southern," he recalled. On the trip back from that game he slept soundly for the first time in months.
The Going Gets Too Tough
The more you achieve, the more is expected. After that 11-1 season, the talk on campus was that Southern would go undefeated in 1998. But in the opener, with the team trailing 7-0 at the half, Mr. Jacoby was pulled for Mr. George. Southern lost anyway, 28-7.
In practice on Tuesday, Mr. Jacoby overthrew a pass to one of his ends, John Forman, who yelled at him in front of everybody.
Mr. Forman would say later that it was just the frustration of having lost the opener, but to Mr. Jacoby it was so much more -- the final straw. He was sure that Mr. Forman was trying to subvert his control of the team to help Mr. George, his roommate.
"If you have a choice, you choose black first," Mr. Jacoby would later say. "I felt that I was all alone again, on an island by myself. It was like I was right back where I had started two years before, with a lot of the same attitudes against me."
He quit football and Southern.
Coach Richardson was surprised and asked Mr. Jacoby to stay. But more recently, he said he understood the decision. Because of "the type person he is," the coach said, "it was the best thing for Marcus because it would have killed him." The coach meant that Marcus Jacoby was not emotionally equipped to continue being the solitary white.
When Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers wanted to break major league baseball's color line in 1947, he chose Jackie Robinson, not simply because he was a great black ballplayer -- there were greater black stars -- but because he had experience inside white institutions. Jackie Robinson was 28 that first year in the majors, a mature man who had graduated from U.C.L.A. and served in the Army. He knew what it was like to be in the minority.
When Coach Richardson went after Mr. Jacoby, he was just looking for a quarterback.
Reporters hounded Mr. Jacoby to find why he had left, but he never spoke openly about it. He never mentioned race. In brief interviews, he told them he was burned out, and in a sense this was true. He had burned out on being in the minority. And as a white, he didn't have to be. In those last months at Southern, he often thought about returning to a white life. "You kind of look over your shoulder and see your old life and you say, 'I could go back.' "
There had been such anguish over the Jacoby-George quarterback battle, and all its racial nuances, but at least on the field, in the end, it didn't seem to make much difference. That year Southern, with Sam George at the helm, finished 9-3, once again winning the Heritage Bowl.
A white quarterback at Southern did make people think. Mo Morgan had been against it, but not after watching Mr. Jacoby at practices. "I looked at the three quarterbacks that were there and he was the best at the time. I'm just telling you straight out. It wasn't his ability and I'm not saying he was brighter than the other kids. He just put in the work."
Mr. Morgan's son Jabari said he, too, was sorry to see Mr. Jacoby go; he liked the idea of a white guy being open to attending a black college.
This past year, as a senior, Jabari Morgan reached out to a white freshman tuba player, Grant Milliken, who tried out for the band. He helped him through the hazing. One of Mr. Morgan's friends said he had done it because Mr. Milliken was white, but Mr. Morgan said no, he had done it because Mr. Milliken was really good on tuba.
Mr. Morgan even helped Mr. Milliken create a dance solo full of shakes and shivers and fancy steps, which was performed at halftimes to wild applause. What the crowd loved, said Mr. Morgan, was not just that a white guy could dance.
"The whole point of letting the white guy dance is that we were saying to the world, 'Hey, you can learn our culture just like we can learn yours.' "
Mr. Morgan's father continues to be both fearful of his son's more relaxed attitude about race, and a little in awe of it.
"He doesn't think it's something he can't overcome," said Mo Morgan, "and you know, I think he's right. You can get caught up in this, and it will screw up your thinking."
No More Apologies
One weekend last fall, at the request of a reporter, Mr. Jacoby went to a Southern game for the first time since quitting. This was Homecoming Day, and from his seat in the stands he watched Southern seniors and their families being introduced to the crowd at midfield. It could have been his moment. Ryan Lewis, his old roommate, was there, and so was Matt Bushart, the white punter.
Mr. Bushart's name was called, to applause. Mr. Jacoby had read in the newspaper Mr. Bushart's saying how much he had enjoyed Southern.
The team had won seven straight games at that point, and so Mr. Jacoby was surprised during the first quarter when Southern's starting quarterback was replaced after throwing an interception. Mr. Jacoby had always been so sure he'd been replaced with Sam George to pander to fans; now Coach Richardson was using the exact same strategy with two black quarterbacks. In the paper the next day, Mr. Richardson said he had just been trying to light a spark under the offense.
After the game, outside the stadium, a large black man spotted Mr. Jacoby and, extending his hand, said, "Hi, Marcus, how ya doin'?"
"O.K., Virgil," Mr. Jacoby said. "How you doin'?" The two chatted for a moment outside the stadium -- the man said he had left school and was working as an account executive for a drug company -- then they went their separate ways.
"That was Virgil Smothers," Mr. Jacoby said afterward. It was Mr. Smothers who had led the aborted strike against Mr. Jacoby. "I guess he figures it's all in the past."
It was not all in Mr. Jacoby's past. Though he had moved on -- he was now majoring in finance at L.S.U.
-- his Southern experience still unsettled him. "Just last night I had a dream about it," he said. "Weird dreams. Like some of these people are coming back to haunt me in some way. By these people I mean some of those who I considered friends and who I felt kind of turned on me."
At times he talks about being lucky to have experienced another culture; at others he describes it as "a personal hell." His sister Dana says, "There are some scars that haven't gone away, from the bad things."
After leaving Southern, Mr. Jacoby took a while to realize how much pressure he had felt. "I remember one time a few months after I quit -- and this was part of the healing process -- I said something about country music, that I liked it. And I remember standing around with four white people and thinking, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe I just said that.' And then I caught myself right before I got through that whole thing in my mind and I looked at the people's faces and they were agreeing with me. I went 'Whoa,' I didn't have to apologize for that anymore."
These days, he appreciates walking around anonymously on the mostly white L.S.U. campus. "I got burned out as far as being somebody," he said. "At L.S.U. I've just enjoyed being a part of the crowd."