Monday, Dec. 29, 2008

Johnny Unitas

The Game: The 25-year-old Baltimore Colts quarterback, who had toiled as a weekend semi-pro player just two years earlier, cemented his legend in the greatest game. With less than two minutes left in regulation, the Colts trailed 17-14, and were pinned to their own 14-yard-line. "When we got in the huddle," said wide receiver Raymond Berry, "I looked down the field and the goal posts looked like they were in Baltimore." Unitas completed four passes, three to Berry, for 73-yards to set up the game-tying field goal. In overtime, he led the 80-yard drive that ended with Alan Ameche's game-winning touchdown run. Unitas, who threw for 361 yards that day, was named the game's MVP.

Post-Game: Johnny U, arguably the greatest football player of all-time, was a three-time NFL MVP, and still holds an NFL record for throwing a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games. That feat, much like Joe DiMaggio's 56-game winning streak, is unlikely to ever be repeated. Asked to describe what it was like to play with Unitas, Colts tight end John Mackey said: "It's like being in the huddle with God." Late in life Unitas, who essentially lost use of his mangled right throwing hand, brought attention to the crippling disabilities that plagued many football players from his era. He died of a heart attack, at 69, in 2002.