As if this day couldn’t get any worse. It’s hard to fathom Unitas not roaming the sidelines of Ravens’ stadium anymore. Even though he was pushing 70, Unitas never missed a game. He was as much a part of the Ravens’ organization as any man could have been. When Art Modell brought the Browns to Baltimore, Unitas may have been the happiest person to see that move come to fruition. He wanted the fans in Baltimore to have football back in their lives.
And that’s not surprising considering Johnny Unitas, an original Baltimore Colt, loved the city of Baltimore and the people that lived here. And the city loved him back.
The great Colt like many of his former teammates had lived in the area for his entire career. You could see him make appearances every where, any time he had the chance to give back to a community that got so much from him.
Unitas represented a blue collar town so well because he was such a blue collar man. When the Colts moved to Indianapolis, Unitas refused to acknowledge the team’s existence, not willing to go see the team play in the stadium that helped lure the Colts away. He stayed loyal to the city he loved, the city that loved him back.
As a player, Unitas was unsurpassed. Unitas threw a touchdown in 47 straight games. He invented the two minute drill. Unitas led more come from behind victories than any quarterback in league history. The hall of fame QB was honored with the MVP award three times during his career. No.19 was also named player of the decade for the 1960s and he made the Pro Bowl ten times during his illustrious career.
Unitas possessed a keen sense of what to do on the field. He absorbed and studied any playbook he had like a computer. His decisions were always precise, rarely wrong.
The greatest defensive end in football history, Deacon Jones, claimed that there really was no way to beat him. If opponents tried to rattle him by hitting him, he kept getting back up. If a team tried to get him moving out of the pocket, he was able to improvise. You try to make him throw deep because he doesn’t have the arm strength, but he hits Raymond Berry in stride down the field every time.
Not bad for a player that was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers, after being drafted out of the ninth round. And you though Kurt Warner and Jeff Garcia have had fairly tale careers?
And there may never have been a tougher player than Johnny U. He was a man’s man. The stories are classic. There was the time when Unitas didn’t let a broken nose deter him, jamming mud up his nose from the playing field to stop the bleeding. No.19 played with broken ribs, a broken index finger and other broken body parts almost as regularly as he threw touchdowns. If Unitas came out of a game, he didn’t come out willingly. Unlike Randy Moss, Unitas played on every down, every Sunday.
Unitas was truly the last of a generation that respected the game the way it should be respected. He felt like playing football was a privilege, not a job. And the old Colts great always stayed true to the city he played for.
The city of Baltimore would do justice to the man, the legend whose loyalty was undeniable, by naming Ravens stadium after him.
Could it get any better than watching the Ravens, Johnny’s favorite team, in Unitas Stadium? The only thing better would be seeing Unitas roam the sidelines once more.
But while No.19 may not be present on Sundays in body anymore, he will always remain there in spirit.