QUARLES, RASSHAN SHARE BOND UCLA FOOTBALL: START BY QB SIGNIFICANT IN PROGRAM'S HISTORY.
Ten years before the Internet was invented, long before e-mail was the preferred way to communicate, Bernard Quarles received hate mail the old-fashioned way.
It came via letters to his home, and to UCLA's athletic department.
The subject was black and white -- literally.
Twenty-eight years ago today, Quarles made the second of two career starts at UCLA. And until Osaar Rasshan stands under center and takes the Bruins' first offensive snap a few minutes beyond 12:30 p.m. today at the Rose Bowl, Quarles will be known as the last African-American to start at quarterback at a school that produced Jackie Robinson, Kenny Washington and Arthur Ashe.
"Very surprised, and disturbed by it, and very disappointed," Quarles said. "It's discouraging. I thought it should have happened a long time ago, considering there is a lot of talent in the African-American community that plays that position.
"I'm very surprised."
Another link between Quarles and Rasshan is UCLA's opponent -- Arizona State. But while Rasshan faces a defense for the ninth-ranked team in the nation focused on limiting his running ability and making him throw the ball, which is not a strength, Quarles went against more than a few tough defenses.
"Back then, people were sending me a lot of hate mail," Quarles said. "They threatened me. They threatened my family. They said if I step on the field they were going to kill me. There were a lot of racial slurs. They tried to convince me not to play."
Quarles' first action came twogames prior the Arizona State game in 1979. He relieved injured Rick Bayshore and led the Bruins to a 28-27 victory over California. A week later, Oct. 27, he was the first African-American to start for UCLA since Bill Bolden in 1968, but the Bruins lost to Washington 34-14.
When Quarles struggled against the Sun Devils, coach Terry Donahue sent Tom Ramsey in as a replacement. Quarles never got his job back, finished the season 15 of 32 for 186 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown, and transferred to Hawaii because he didn't think Donahue would "give me a chance to play" in 1980.
Rasshan, of course, would not be in this position if not for circumstances and desperation.
When the season began, his quarterbacking career appeared over. After two seasons at UCLA, and much deliberation with his family, he switched to receiver in the summer, but injuries to Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan and a meltdown by walk-on backup McLeod Bethel-Thompson against Notre Dame thrust Rasshan into the position he coveted.
His first action came last week in a loss to Arizona, after Cowan was injured early in the third quarter. He was 3 of 10 for 78 yards passing, but his running (eight attempts, 57 yards) sparked what was a dismal offense as the Bruins scored 13second-half points in a 34-27loss.
When Rasshan moved to receiver, the biggest reservation his father, Khalif, had was how the move would be perceived. Rasshan said he figured out the impact weeks after UCLA finished a summer throwing session against WestL.A. College.
"As we're shaking hands with them, a guy walks by me and says, 'Hey, switch back to quarterback,'" Rasshan said. "It kind of took me by surprise because I didn't know what he meant. I thought about it for a couple of weeks, and I knew what he meant. I think he was saying it for a lot of African-American quarterbacks out there.
"Me switching, it's a ripple effect, and it would make a difference if I played here or not. I believe it can open up a lot of doors for other up-and-coming, athletic African-American quarterbacks that are trying to make it."
Now, Rasshan eagerly grabs the baton Quarles held for nearly three decades, and teammates are rallying around the cause.
According to UCLA, Bert Emanuel, who is African-American, played quarterback at the school in 1991 before transferring to Rice, but did not attempt a pass nor earn a varsity letter.
"If you think about it, this is UCLA history," said Bruins senior defensive end Bruce Davis, whose father, also named Bruce, was a teammate of Quarles' at UCLA in 1978. "Osaar and I have become pretty close, especially last year and the beginning of this year when they were switching him back and forth. He came up to me and said, 'This is pretty hard for me because it's always been my dream to play quarterback at UCLA."'
Karl Dorrell, the first African-American football head coach at UCLA, downplayed any social ramifications of Rasshan's start.
"No real significance for me," Dorrell said. "I know it has been a while. When we recruited him, we fully anticipated him playing quarterback. That's the reason we recruited him in the first place, and there was going to be a time where he would be on the field, so we're just at that point. He's on the field. It is his time."
Quarles, who grew up in LosAngeles and is owner and president of Quantum Branch Security Services, Inc., in L.A., disagrees with Dorrell's sentiment. He said he doesn't pay close attention to UCLA, but will today, with a keen eye on Rasshan.
"I think it's a step in the right direction," Quarles said. "I think it's a good sign and I wish him all the luck in the world."
vs. Arizona ST.,
12:30 p.m., Rose Bowl,
Ch. 7, 570-AM.
(1 -- color) Converted receiver Osaar Rasshan has completed 3 of 10 passes for 78 yards in three games at quarterback this season.
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images
(2) Bernard Quarles started two games at quarterback for UCLA in 1979, but later transferred to Hawaii.
Photo courtesy of UCLA/
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Nov 10, 2007|
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