It won't just be a geographic first when the 49ers play their first game in London this Sunday with Troy Smith as their new starting quarterback. It will also be something of a ethno-cultural, demographic first.
Turns out that it will be the first time in the franchise's entire 64-year history that the 49ers will start an African-American at the quarterback position. Troy Smith is the 49ers' first-ever black starting quarterback.
Go ahead and check the list of every single starting quarterback the 49ers have ever had. About the darkest-skinned guy you'll see on that list is Jim Plunkett (1976 and 1977).
Even though practice squad quarterback Nate Davis has appeared in seven preseason games for the 49ers, he did not start any of them. Preseason games do not count toward official NFL statistics anyway.
While Troy Smith's promotion from third-stringer to starter may seem like a desperation move for the 49ers, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat's Eric Branch suggests that Smith may be the best of the three. Branch notes in a tweet that Troy Smith has a higher career quarterback rating (79.7) than Alex Smith (70.2) or David Carr (74.9).
Ironically, the first black NFL quarterback ever made his debut against the 49ers. The Chicago Bears' Willie Thrower was the first African-American to play quarterback in the NFL, making his debut in a Bears-49ers game in 1952.
Troy Smith, of course, claims he's color-blind about the whole thing. "Football is football," Smith told the San Jose Mercury News. "And any way you cut it up, it's going to be 11 guys on offense and 11 guys on defense."
Except one of those guys on offense is making San Francisco 49ers history, Troy Smith.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who assures you that the 49ers-Broncos game Sunday morning will be over more than four hours before the beginning of the Giants' World Series Game 4 late Sunday afternoon.