Saturday, January 17, 2009

Johnny U, by Tom Callahan

Johnny U: The Life and Times of John Unitas, by Tom Callahan

“Big hands and feet. Long arms and legs. As bowlegged as a ranch hand. Somewhat sunken chest. Slightly rounded shoulders.” Not what you would expect for a description of one of the best quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen! Johnny Unitas was known as the Golden Arm and holds the greatest record in the leagues history: 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. (For comparison, only Brett Favre has come close to this mark and he was stopped at 36.) He is also famous for claiming only to be a Baltimore Colt; when Irsay moved the franchise to Indianapolis in 1984 Unitas led the way in boycotting the team, going as far as requesting that his statistics be removed from the Indy books.

Written by a sports columnist, this could have easily devolved into a list of facts and records, but instead was much more interesting. Included are interviews with many of U’s teammates and contemporaries, recaps of big games, and because of the nature of the subject, the story of the NFL itself. Callahan has a good sense of humor, too—especially if you are a football fan. “Compared to [Steelers coach in the 1950’s Walter] Kiesling, Woody Hayes at Ohio State had a devout and sentimental attachment to the forward pass.” My kind of wisecrack! While the writing at times is a bit choppy, rapidly jumping between players and anecdotes, overall this was a great biography and a fun read.

First Sentence:
“My father’s name was Leonard Unitas,” states the autobiography of Johnny Unitas, Pro Quarterback, published in 1965 by Grosset and Dunlap.

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