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On August 5, 1940, Roman Gabriel, Jr. was born in Wilmington. Gabriel gained fame as the quarterback for N.C. State from 1959 to 1961, where he was a two time All-American and a two time ACC Player of the Year. His skill as a quarterback led him to set numerous passing records at N.C. State. As a result, his jersey was officially retired in 1962. In 1989, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

After a stellar college career, Gabriel was the No. 2 draft pick for the Los Angeles Rams in 1962. He played 16 seasons in the NFL with the Rams and Philadelphia Eagles, earning the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 1969 and spots in the Pro Bowl four times. Gabriel retired from football in 1978 and eventually returned to his native North Carolina. For seven seasons, he was a game analyst with the Carolina Panthers Radio Network.

While playing in Los Angeles, Gabriel took advantage of his dark good looks and his proximity to the entertainment industry and had a brief career in the movies and television. His best-known role was as the adopted Indian son of John Wayne in The Undefeated.

His dark complexion led some to believe he was actually American Indian but his lineage was Filipino American on his father’s side and Irish-American on his mother’s.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit www.NCDCR.gov.

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