John Constantine Unitas was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 7th, 1933. He was taken from us too early at the age of 69 after suffering a heart attack on September 11th, 2002. He had a previous heart attack in 1993 that had required triple-bypass surgery.
His pro career began in 1955 as a ninth-round pick by the Steelers. But after being cut by them prior to the start of that season, Unitas turned to semi-pro ball that year, earning just $6 per game.
Then he signed a contract to play for the Colts in 1956. And although his first NFL pass was an interception returned for a touchdown, his 17 seasons in Baltimore transformed him into a legend who helped raise the profile of NFL football across the nation.
Unitas finished his career with one last season in San Diego. Then-Colts GM Joe Thomas coldly traded the man that local sportswriters affectionately called "Mr. Football" to the Chargers for cash.
At the time Unitas finished his career, he held 22 NFL records, including most pass attempts, most pass completions, most passing yards, most touchdown passes, and most seasons leading the league in touchdown passes. He finished his career with a 54.6 completion rate and 290 touchdowns.
His record for 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, set in 1956-1960, still stands today. Second on the list is Green Bay's Brett Favre with a 36-game streak from 2002 to 2004.
Unitas played in 10 Pro Bowls, was the NFL's Most Valuable Player three times, and the first NFL quarterback to surpass the 40,000-yard passing mark. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
But in addition to all his records, "Johnny U." is remembered for his crew cut, his black hightops, his clutch leadership in the late moments of the 1958 Championship Game against the Giants, and his no-nonsense, business-like approach on the field.
"He was totally focused on moving the football, scoring points and winning," former teammate and Hall of Fame wide receiver Raymond Berry said of Unitas.
And fellow Hall of Famer John Mackey perhaps uttered the most comprehensive statement about Unitas' presence on the football field while the two played together in Baltimore.
"It's like being in a huddle with God," the former tight end once explained.
Remembering Johnny U.
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