Johnny Unitas was born on May 7, 1933 to Lithuanian immigrant parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Unitas attended St. Justin’s High School in Pittsburgh, where he played both quarterback and halfback on and off. After his high school football career came to an end, Unitas looked for places to play college football, but was passed over by Notre Dame and Indiana. Luckily though, Unitas was able to catch on with the University of Louisville, and he headed to Kentucky to begin his college career.
Unitas’ first start came in the fifth game of the 1951 season, and he was nothing short of spectacular. Unitas threw for 11 consecutive passes and 3 touchdowns in that game, but lost on a disputed field goal 22-21. This was the start of an impressive college career for Unitas, as he went on to complete 245 passes for 3,139 yards, and 27 touchdowns in his time at Louisville.
Unitas then entered the NFL draft in 1955, and was selected in the ninth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. His time with the Steelers was short lived though, as Head Coach Walt Kiesling decided without even letting Unitas take a snap in practice, that Unitas wasn’t smart enough to quarterback an NFL team. Unitas then played for a semi-professional team called the Bloomfield Rams for $6 a game on weekends, and worked for a construction company during the weeks. It wasn’t until 1956 that Unitas was offered a tryout with the Baltimore Colts by Head Coach Weeb Ewbank, and he signed soon after.
It took only four games before Unitas had his shot, and it happened when George Shaw broke his leg. His first pass was an interception returned for a touchdown, and his second snap was a fumbled hand-off. His second game was a complete 180 though, as he pulled off an impressive upset of the Green Bay Packers. This marked the start of something special for the career of Johnny Unitas, who went on to win one Super Bowl in 1970, and two NFL titles in 1958, and 1959. Unitas was also a ten-time Pro-Bowler, and also won the MVP award three times in 1959, 1964, and 1967. To this day Unitas holds the record for throwing at least one touchdown pass in 47 games in a row, a record that has been untouched since it was set in 1960.
Unitas passed away on September 11, 2002 from a heart attack while he was working out in Timonium, Maryland. There was a statue of Unitas built soon after in front of the Baltimore stadium in honor of him. Johnny Unitas was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.