John Wooten proud of growing NFL diversity

Darin Gantt
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

At least in title, Doug Williams is now in charge of personnel in Washington.

And for the man who has fought for opportunities for minorities in football, it marked a high point, so far.

Via Peter King of, Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten felt a since of pride with Williams’ being named senior vice president of player personnel.

“It’s so gratifying,” Wooten said. “It tells me how far we’ve come as a league. I will never forget, years ago, when [Dallas president] Tex Schramm said to me, ‘You’re trying to tell us who to hire!’ I said, ‘No, Tex. We simply want a chance to interview for these jobs.’ And now, everyone is just trying to do what they can to make equal opportunity in coaching and the front office a reality.”

Williams’ hiring is significant for several reasons, beginning with the fact he once quarterbacked the team to a Super Bowl title. But he’s also breaking ground in the front office for the team which was the last to integrate, and which has never had a minority as the top personnel executive. (While team president Bruce Allen’s probably still in charge, Williams nonetheless has the top title in the personnel side.)

He also brings to 15 the number of minorities who hold top positions on the field or in the front office, and that number was just 10 in 2013.

Eight current NFL coaches come from minority backgrounds: Ron Rivera (Panthers), Marvin Lewis (Bengals), Hue Jackson (Browns), Vance Joseph (Broncos), Jim Caldwell (Lions), Anthony Lynn (Chargers), Todd Bowles ) Jets), and Mike Tomlin (Steelers).

Wooten also lists seven minorities as holding top personnel jobs. While titles and internal hierarchies differ from team to team, he’s counting Ozzie Newsome (Ravens), Sashi Brown (Browns), Rick Smith (Texans), Reggie McKenzie (Raiders), Chris Grier (Dolphins), Jerry Reese (Giants), and Williams.

Again, not all of those guys have final say over the rosters, but the growing ranks of minorities in personnel departments brings Williams back to the lessons he learned from his legendary coach at Grambling.

“Eddie Robinson never said, ‘You can do this because you’re black,’” Williams said. “He said, ‘If you’re ever going to get a chance, you’re going to get a chance in America.’ And here it is.”

And while the system is far from fixed, and the field is far from level, there is at least progress in the area Wooten has fought for.

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