Roman Ildonzo Gabriel Jr. was born in Wilmington, N.C., the son of Roman Ildonzo Gabriel Sr., a Filipino immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1925 and worked as a laborer in Alaska and California before settling in North Carolina and marrying an Irish-American woman. Young Roman grew up poor, sickly and afflicted with asthma, yet eventually grew to be 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and became the prototype of the modern NFL quarterback.
Gabriel would quip that his hometown of Wilmington is "... the home of Meadowlark Lemon, Sonny Jurgensen, Michael Jordan, Charles Kuralt, and the country-western fiddler Charlie Daniels ... so the water and food must have been good."
He went on to star at N.C. State and was selected second overall by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1962 NFL Draft. He played 16 years in the NFL with the Rams and later the Eagles. He was L.A.'s all-time passing leader when he retired in 1977 and still holds the franchise records for touchdown passes (154), passes attempted (3,313), and wins by a starting quarterback (74). Gabriel was a four-time Pro Bowl selection, the league MVP in 1969 and won the comeback player of the year in 1973.
Not bad for the "world's biggest Filipino" and the first Asian-American to play quarterback in the NFL.