The Life, Triumphs, And Legacies Of Roman Gabriel

Roman Gabriel, the first Filipino-American quarterback in the National Football League, was once a valuable player for the Los Angeles Rams. 

Roman Gabriel made the Filipino-American (Fil-Am) community proud through becoming a trailblazing player in the peak of his football seasons. He was the pioneer Fil-Am quarterback in the National Football League in 1962. His skill, leadership, and determination not only got him to clinch individual recognitions, but also became a catalyst for representation within the broad sports community. 

The phenomenal athlete died on Saturday, April 20. His son, Roman Gabriel III, confirmed his father’s death through his social media channels. Here is a retrospective glance at the cherished athlete’s life, influence, and iconic moments.

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Facts about Roman Gabriel

Gabriel was born on August 5, 1940 in Wilmington, North Carolina, and a son to a Filipino immigrant and his Irish-American spouse. According to Pro Football Researchers, Gabriel overcame childhood asthma to excel in sports. He displayed initial interest in baseball but pursued football and earned a scholarship to North Carolina State University in college. 

As early as college football, the athlete showed remarkable prowess, leading him to transition to the NFL and sign with the Los Angeles Rams, who had him as their number two draft pick. He became their starting quarterback under Coach George Allen.

Roman Gabriel overcame asthma to be able to pursue sports
Roman Gabriel overcame asthma to be able to pursue sports/Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times reported that the quarterback was married and divorced three times: to Suzanne Horton, Lisa Katolin, and Tedra Bidwell. He had five children: Roman III, Ram Allen, Amber Noel, Rory Jay, and Brandon. 

In his career, he was known as jersey number 18 when he was with the Rams, 5 when he joined the Philadelphia Eagles, and back to 18 in his later years with the latter. He had a total of 183 games played, 149 interceptions, and 201 touchdowns as per Britannica.

Gabriel as a sports icon

ESPN mentioned the athlete was a highly sought-after talent as the Australian Football League’s Oakland Raiders also drafted him, aside from the Rams. Ultimately he signed with the latter. 

Coach Allen led the Rams to numerous victories from 1966, with Gabriel emerging as a top-tier quarterback. He became the NFL Most Valuable Player in 1969 under Allen’s mentorship. 

Gabriel spent 11 years with the Los Angeles Rams but in 1973, he left the team due to a player trade. The quarterback then played for the Eagles, while the Rams acquired John Hadl. 

Gabriel was the NFL’s MVP in 1969.

Gabriel led the Eagles in multiple wins as well and earned the Comeback Player of the Year. He spent five years with the team and retired to pursue coaching and contributing to various charities. 

Tributes from friends, family, and fans

Gabriel’s son, Roman III, announced that the NFL legend passed away peacefully at home due to natural causes. The family asked for prayers and requested privacy. 

Gabriel’s former teams, the Rams and the Eagles, also posted their respective tributes to the talented quarterback. The Rams expressed they mourn the football pioneer’s death and extended condolences to his family and friends.

“The Eagles are saddened to learn of the passing of Roman Gabriel,” the latter said in an X post.

Retired player and former teammate Ron Jaworski also posted a tribute for Gabriel. He chronicled that he was an amazing player and mentor. “Words can’t explain my thanks for what a great teammate he was,” he continued. “A special player and a better man.”

Several fans also expressed their grief through posting Gabriel’s finest moments during his season in several media platforms. “The Mahomes before the Mahomes,” one X user said. “Rest in peace, Roman Gabriel.” He was 83.

Banner photo via X @RGabriel4HOF.

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