Johnny Unitas Baltimore Colts & San Diego Chargers

"I came into the league without any fuss. I’d just as soon leave it that way. There’s no difference I can see in retiring from pro football, or quitting a job at the Pennsy Railroad. I did something I wanted to do and went as far as I could go.”

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 stood for more than 50 years. 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.