College Football Play Off Games What Teams Play Where 2017 The Best There Was

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The Best There Was

In the history of sports, whether in basketball, baseball, or every other specialty, there have been people who have been respected for generations by their peers and sportswriters who assign one person as the greatest. It’s only fair to look back at the one person who is considered “the best out there” in the current NFL season in professional football. One man stands alone in the NFL’s storied history, even by today’s standards, for what sportsmanship, true grit and determination rose to the top despite overwhelming adversity and reigned supreme as the best quarterback to ever play the game for eighteen years. There are many who vehemently state that Johnny Unitas was the best. Even today, there are those who believe that Johnny Yu can command any team, read today’s complex defense playbooks and literally take the entire game to a new level of excitement, skill and daring.

With his signature flat top haircut, Johnny Unitas ascended to the highest ranks of pro football. Few, if any, sports stories are more dramatic or more perfect than the story of Johnny Unitas. He was a ninth-round draft pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1955. Even though he cut Unitas before even throwing a pass in one game, he was determined to play. For the rest of the year Unitas replaced his construction work by playing semi-pro football for $6 a game. At that time players were called to play a game known as Iron Man Football. That means playing both defense and offense positions. Johnny Unitas the best. But his passing ability eventually caught the attention of other pro scouts.

After the 1955 season, Baltimore Colts head coach Weeb Evebank learned of the “excellent prospect” on the Pittsburgh Sandlots. Ewbank signed Johnny for $17,000 on a team basis. Strictly programmed as a backup, Unitas got a chance in the fourth game when the Colts’ starter was injured. And, they say the rest is history! For the next 18 seasons, “Johnny Yu” recorded game-winning feats that remained the benchmark by which all other quarterbacks were measured. Many of his achievements have remained untouched for over fifty years. There has never been another Johnny Yu favorite in all of NFL history. Sure, there were others like Bart Starr, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Tom Brady. But, Johnny Unitas put the NFL on the map and into the nation’s consciousness.

Arguably, 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 and began a legend. The biggest game between the Colts and Giants was played in front of a national television audience, giving Unitas the opportunity to display all of his wonderful attributes, confidence, grit, leadership, play calling talent and passing skills. By today’s coaches. Think of Johnny Unitas as a quarterback today. He once told Weeb Ewbank to sit back and relax and just enjoy the game. The confidence and determination displayed under intense pressure in a collision game like football in the NFL just showcases the true talent of Johnny Unitas.

As with any professional sports era, one’s once great talent has a way of diminishing, and by 1974, Johnny Unitas had to leave the game. A household name where every aspiring football player especially the young quarterbacks all tried to emulate. He always came back from injuries which became a Unitas trademark. A typical incident occurred in 1958, when he led Baltimore to the Western Conference title, when he was hit by the Packers’ Johnny Simank in the sixth game and hospitalized with three broken ribs and a punctured lung. Four games later, he led the Colts from a 27–7 halftime deficit to a 35–27 victory against the San Francisco 49ers, a performance he rated higher than the title game of the season.

Unitas may have been overlooked as a young player, but he was always a strong, confident leader. “Everything I do,” he said, “I always have a reason.” At the end of that championship game, he dismissed Evbank’s instructions to put the ball on the ground. “We don’t want an interception here,” the coach reminded him during a timeout. Two plays later, inside the 10, Unitas went to Jim Mutscheller on the one. When asked about the risk of an interception, Unitas said, “If I had seen the risk of it, I would have thrown the ball out of bounds. When you know what you’re doing, you don’t get intercepted.” Unitas threw for 32 touchdowns in 1959 and the Colts again defeated the Giants in the title game. In the 31–16 victory, Unitas rushed for the go-ahead touchdown and passed for 264 yards and two scores.

His 3,481 yards passing in 1963 topped the NFL. He was the league’s MVP the following season when he led the Colts to an NFL-best 12-2 record and was first in yards per pass attempt (9.26). Winning another MVP in 1967, he had a league-high 58.5 completion percentage as he passed for 3,428 yards and 20 touchdowns in the Colts’ 11-1-2 season. After spending most of the 1968 season injured, Unitas returned and led the Colts on their only scoring drive in the historic Super Bowl III, a 16–7 loss to the New York Jets. Two years later, in the Colts’ 16–13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V, he threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to John McKee before being injured in the first half.

Constant injuries finally caught up with him, and in 1972 the Colts, led by new coach Don Shula, were forced to bench Unitas. The following January he was traded to the San Diego Chargers, for whom he played just one season before retiring. During his 18-year career, Unitas threw for 40,239 yards and 290 touchdowns in 211 games. What made Unitas special, Berry said, was “his uncanny knack for calling the right play at the right time, his icy composure under fire, his fierce competitiveness and complete disregard for his own safety.” On September 11, 2002, while the rest of the nation was remembering the national tragedy, Unitas was working at a physical therapy center in Timonium, a Baltimore suburb, when he suffered a fatal heart attack and quietly passed into history. He was 69 years old. The best there was, he was gone now

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