JOHNNY UNITAS

JOHNNY UNITAS

Class of 1979
Quarterback >>> 6-1, 194
(Louisville)
1956-1972 Baltimore Colts, 1973 San Diego Chargers

John Constantine Unitas. . .Cut by 1955 Steelers, free agent with 1956 Colts, soon became legendary hero. . .Exceptional field leader, thrived on pressure. . .Led Colts to 1958, 1959 NFL crowns, Super Bowl V victory. . .All-NFL six seasons, Player of Year three times . . .MVP three times in 10 Pro Bowls. . . Completed 2,830 passes for 40,239 yards, 290 TDs. . .Threw at least one TD pass in 47 straight games. . .Had 26 games over 300 yards passing. . .Born May 7, 1933, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. . .Died September 11, 2002, at age of 69.

Few, if any, sports stories are more dramatic or more complete than the story of Johnny Unitas. A ninth-round draft choice of the1955 Pittsburgh Steelers, Unitas was cut before he even threw one pass in a game. Still determined, he played semi-pro football for $6 a game.

After the season, the Baltimore Colts coach Weeb Ewbank learned of the "outstanding prospect" on the Pittsburgh sandlots. Ewbank signed Johnny for $17,000 on a make the team basis. Programmed strictly as a backup, Unitas got his chance in the fourth game when the Colts’ starter was injured.

Unitas’ first pass was intercepted for a touchdown but from that moment on, he never looked back. For the next 18 seasons, "Johnny U'' ran up a ledger of game winning exploits seldom matched in NFL history.

Without a doubt, it was his last-second heroics in the 1958 NFL title game, often called "the greatest game ever played," that turned Unitas into a household name. The New York Giants, with two minutes to play, were leading, 17-14, when the Colts started a last-gasp drive at their own 14. “Mr. Clutch” went coolly to work with seven straight passes that set up a game-tying field goal with seven seconds left. Unitas then engineered a textbook perfect 80-yard march to win the game in overtime. The game, played before a national television audience, gave Unitas his chance to demonstrate all of his marvelous attributes – confidence, courage, leadership, play calling genius, and passing skill.

Unitas’ career statistics include 40,239 yards and 290 touchdowns passing. His record of at least one touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games may stand forever. A genuine team player, Unitas was a first- or second-team All-NFL choice eight years, selected NFL Player of the Year three times, and named to10 Pro Bowls.

Year Team
G
Att.
Comp.
Pct.
Yds.
TD
Int.
Rating
No.
Yds.
Avg.
TD
1956 Baltimore
12
198
110
55.6
1498
9
10
74.0
28
155
5.5
1
1957 Baltimore
12
301
172
57.1
2550
24
17
88.0
42
171
4.1
1
1958 Baltimore
10
263
136
51.7
2007
19
7
90.0
33
139
4.2
3
1959 Baltimore
12
367
193
52.6
2899
32
14
92.0
29
145
5.0
2
1960 Baltimore
12
378
190
50.3
3099
25
24
73.7
36
195
5.4
0
1961 Baltimore
14
420
229
54.5
2990
16
24
66.1
54
190
3.5
2
1962 Baltimore
14
389
222
57.1
2967
23
23
76.5
50
137
2.7
0
1963 Baltimore
14
410
237
57.8
3481
20
12
89.7
47
224
4.8
0
1964 Baltimore
14
305
158
51.8
2824
19
6
96.4
37
162
4.4
2
1965 Baltimore
11
282
164
58.2
2530
23
12
97.4
17
68
4.0
1
1966 Baltimore
14
348
195
56.0
2748
22
24
74.0
20
44
2.2
1
1967 Baltimore
14
436
255
58.5
3428
20
16
83.6
22
89
4.0
0
1968 Baltimore
5
32
11
34.4
139
2
4
30.1
3
-1
-0.3
0
1969 Baltimore
13
327
178
54.4
2342
12
20
64.0
11
23
2.1
0
1970 Baltimore
14
321
166
51.7
2213
14
18
65.1
9
16
1.8
0
1971 Baltimore
13
176
92
52.3
942
3
9
52.3
9
5
0.6
0
1972 Baltimore
8
157
88
56.1
1111
4
6
70.8
3
15
5.0
0
1973 San Diego
5
76
34
44.7
471
3
7
40.0
0
0
0.0
0
Career Total
211
5186
2830
54.6
40239
290
253
78.2
450
1777
3.9
13
 
Additional Statistics: Receiving: 1-1

Championship Games

1958 NFL – Baltimore 23, New York Giants 17 (Overtime)
Unitas Started at quarterback. He completed 26 of 40 passes for 361 yards one touchdown and one interception.

1959 NFL – Baltimore 31, New York Giants 16
Unitas started at quarterback. He completed 18 of 29 passes for 265 yards and threw two touchdown passes. He also scored a rushing touchdown on a four yard run.

1964 NFL – Cleveland 27, Baltimore 0
Unitas started at quarterback. He completed 12 of 20 passes for 95 yards and had two passes intercepted. He also ran the ball six times for 30 yards.

1968 NFL – Baltimore 34, Cleveland 0
Unitas was injured and did not play.

1970 AFC – Baltimore 27, Oakland 17
Unitas started at quarterback. He completed 11 of 30 passes for 245 yards and threw one touchdown pass. He also had two rushes for nine yards.

Super Bowls

Super Bowl III – New York Jets 16, Baltimore 7
Unitas did not start but entered the game at quarterback in the fourth quarter. He completed 11 of 24 passes for 110 yards and had one pass intercepted.

Super Bowl V – Baltimore 16, Dallas 13
Unitas started at quarterback but was injured and relieved in the second quarter. He completed three of nine passes for 88 yards. He threw one touchdown pass, a 75-yard completion to John Mackey, and two interceptions.


All-NFL: 1957 (NEA), 1958(AP, UPI, NEA, NY), 1959 (AP, UPI, NEA, NY),  1964 (AP, UPI, NEA, NY), 1965 (AP, UPI, NEA, NY),1967 (AP, UPI, NEA, NY)

All-NFL Second Team: 1957 (AP, UPI, NY), 1960 (UPI, NEA, NY), 1963 (AP, UPI, NEA, NY)

All Western Conference: 1958 (SN), 1959 (SN), 1960 (SN), 1964 (SN), 1965 (SN), 1967 (SN)

All AFC Second Team: 1970 (UPI)

(10) – 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968

(at time of his retirement following 1973 season)

• [1st] Most Passes Attempted, Career – 5,186
• [1st] Most Passes Completed, Career – 2,830
• [1st] Most Yards Gained, Career – 40,239
• [1st] Most Games 300 or More Yards, Career – 26
• [1st] Most Touchdown Passes, Career – 290
• [1st] Most Consecutive Game Touchdown Pass Thrown – 47 (1957-1960)
• [1st] Most Fumbles, Career - 95
• [Tied for 1st] Most Seasons Leading the League, Touchdown Passes – 4 (1957-1960)
• [2nd] Most Passes Had Intercepted, Career – 253
• [Tied for 2nd] Most Fumbles Recovered, Career – 29
• [Tied for 2nd] Most Own Fumbles Recovered, Career – 29
• [Tied for 2nd] Most Seasons, Active – 18
• [Tied for 2nd] Most Seasons 3,000 or More Yards Passing, Career – 3 (1960,1963,1967)
• [Tied for 3rd] Highest Pass Completion Percentage, Game (20 Att) – 85.00 (vs. Atlanta, Nov. 12,1967)

Super Bowl Records
• [1st] Longest Pass Completion – 75t (vs. Dallas, Super Bowl V)

NFC Championship Game Records
• [1st] Highest Pass Completion Percentage, Career (40 att) – 62.9 (3 games, 89-56)
• [1st] Most Passing Yards, Game – 349 (vs. New York Giants, 1958 NFL Championship Game)
• [2nd] Most Passes Completed, Game – 26 (vs. New York Giants, 1958 NFL Championship Game)

Colts' records held by Unitas
(Records through the 1972 season, Unitas's last season with Baltimore)

• [1st] Most Passing Yards, Game – 401 (vs. Atlanta, Sept. 17, 1967)
• [1st] Most Passing Yards, Season – 3,481 (1963)
• [1st] Most Passing Yards, Career – 39,768
• [1st] Most Games, 300 or More Yards Passing, Career – 27
• [1st] Most Pass Completions, Game – 26 (vs. New York Jets, Sept. 24 1972)
• [1st] Most Pass Completions, Season – 255 (1967)
• [1st] Most Pass Completions, Career – 2,796
• [1st] Most Consecutive Passes Completed – 12 (vs. New York Jets, Sept. 24 1972)
• [1st] Most Pass Attempts, Game – 45 (vs. New York Jets, Sept. 24 1972)
• [1st] Most Pass Attempts, Season – 436 (1967)
• [1st] Most Pass Attempts, Career – 5,110
• [1st] Highest Pass Completion Percentage, Game – 85.0 (vs. Atlanta, Nov. 12,1967)
• [1st] Highest Pass Completion Percentage, Season – 58.5 (1967)
• [1st] Highest Pass Completion Percentage, Career – 54.7
• [1st] Most Touchdown Passes, Season – 32 (1959)
• [1st] Most Touchdown Passes, Career – 287
• [1st] Most Consecutive Games Touchdown Pass Thrown – 47 (1956-1960)
• [1st] Longest Pass Completion – 89t (vs. Los Angeles Rams, Oct. 30, 1966)
• [Tied for 1st] Most Passes had Intercepted, Game – 5 (vs. San Francisco, Nov. 27, 1960; vs. Green Bay, Oct. 8, 1961; vs. Detroit, Nov. 20, 1966)
• [1st] Most Passes had Intercepted, Season – 24 (1960, 1962, 1966)
• [1st] Most Passes had Intercepted, Career – 246

League Statistical Championships
Passing Touchdown Titles: 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960

Team Statistical Championships
Passing Titles: 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971

• 1959 Most Valuable Player (UPI, SN, MX)
• 1964 Most Valuable Player (UPI, AP, SN, MX)
• 1967 Most Valuable Player (UPI, AP, NEA, SN, MX)
• 1970 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year
• 50th Anniversary Team
• 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
• 1960s All-Decade Team
• All-Time NFL Team
• AFL-NFL 1960-1984 All-Star Team

Year Team W L T Division Finish
1956 Baltimore Colts 5 7 0 (4th)
1957 Baltimore Colts 7 5 0 (3rd)
1958 Baltimore Colts 9 3 0 (1st)
1959 Baltimore Colts 9 3 0 (1st)
1960 Baltimore Colts 6 6 0 (4th)
1961 Baltimore Colts 8 6 0 (3rd)
1962 Baltimore Colts 7 7 0 (4th)
1963 Baltimore Colts 8 6 0 (3rd)
1964 Baltimore Colts 12 2 0 (1st)
1965 Baltimore Colts 10 3 1 (2nd)
1966 Baltimore Colts 9 5 0 (2nd)
1967 Baltimore Colts 11 1 2 (2nd)
1968 Baltimore Colts 13 1 0 (1st)
1969 Baltimore Colts 8 5 1 (2nd)
1970 Baltimore Colts 11 2 1 (1st)
1971 Baltimore Colts 10 4 0 (2nd)
1972 Baltimore Colts 5 9 0 (3rd)
1973 San Diego Chargers 2 11 1 (4th)

Full Name: John Constantine Unitas

Birthdate: May 7, 1933

Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

High School: St. Justin’s (Pittsburgh, PA)

Died: September 11, 2002 in Timonium, Maryland

Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: January 20, 1979

Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: July 28, 1979

Presenter: Frank Gitschier, Unitas’s QB coach at Louisville

Other Members of the Class of 1979: Dick Butkus, Yale Lary, Ron Mix

Pro Career: 18 Seasons, 211 Games

Drafted: 9th round (102nd player overall) in 1955 by Pittsburgh Steelers

Transactions: January 22, 1973 - Unitas purchased by San Diego Chargers from the Baltimore Colts.

Uniform Number: #19

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