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Johnny U: The Life and Times of John Unitas Paperback – August 28, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“I’ll be honest. I’ve never read a football book written by somebody else that made me wish my own name was on it—until now. Johnny U is a classic.” —Dan Jenkins, author of Semi-Tough
“Magnificent . . . Tom Callahan takes us through legendary times, bringing to life the history of professional football and the great players who were the essence of gridiron competition.” —Bill Walsh, member, NFL Hall of Fame; two-time NFL Coach of the Year
“A wonderfully human portrait of a legendary sportsman . . . takes us back to a team, a town, and a time that should never be forgotten.” —Jeffrey Marx, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Season of Life
“As elegant, tough, tender, and unforgettable as Johnny U himself . . . This is Hall of Fame stuff.” —Dave Kindred, author of Sound and Fury
“As a young dyed-in-the-wool Baltimore Colts fan, I watched Johnny U ascend from a mere mortal to a football god. Tom Callahan gives us a full-textured account, as exciting as sudden-death overtime.” —Barry Levinson, writer and director of Diner
“Destined to be acknowledged a classic . . . By page forty you’re saying to yourself, ‘I don’t want this to end.’” —Dick Stockton, longtime broadcaster, Fox Sports
From the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
First a little bit about Johnny U. Unitas grew up in a hard scrabble environment in Pittsburgh. His father died when he was five and his mother and older brother worked hard to keep the family intact. Unitas was a bit light for a football player but was the starting quarterback for his high school. His dream was to play for Notre Dame but he couldn't get in so he went on to play at the University of Louisville in the early 1950's. While the team didn't do very well, Unitas did and his jersey number (#16) is the only one retired by that school. In 1955 Unitas was drafted in the 9th round by the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL but was soon cut and ended up playing in a semi-pro league around Pittsburgh. Through the football grapevine the Baltimore Colts brought Unitas in for a tryout in 1956 and was signed to back up starter George Shaw. Shaw went down in the forth game and Unitas held on to the starting job, except when injured, from 1956-1972.
Unitas won 3 NFL championships in his career - the first which many consider to be the most pivotal professional football game ever played - the 1958 NFL Championship where the Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants 23-17 in the first overtime game in NFL history. The game was televised nationwide and many credit the game for drawing the public's attention to the National Football League and as the launching pad for today's lucrative television contracts and the sport's wide popularity. Some still refer to this game as the "Greatest Game Ever Played.Read more ›
Such gems on Unitas, arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, is found in the outstanding biography by Tom Callahan. Portions of the book were recently excerpted in Sports Illustrated.
Callahan mixes past interviews and material on Unitas with interviews from teammates, opponents, family and friends to present a complete picture of the era of sports and culture. Particularly interesting are comments by ESPN college analyst Lee Corso concerning Unitas the college player and one whose recommendation carried as much weight off the field as in the huddle.
Callahan uniquely covers the landmark 1958 championship game between the Colts and Giants by using a play-by-play summary with comments from participants.
An interesting chapter covers the time Unitas spent with the San Diego Chargers; when illegal drugs and steroids began to replace beer and mixed drinks as tools for players to relax and bond. It was an end of an era in so many ways.
There are plenty of books chronicling pro football that hit the bookshelves in September, but Johnny U should be your first "draft pick."
But then, Johnny Unitas dedicated himself to everything he did. Comic books: he could read them for hours. Later, he fell in love with the sports fiction of John Tunis. And, of course, he had infinite time to dream about playing football for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame wasn't interested. Louisville was. Notre Dame's mistake. In a game that Louisville lost in a 59-6 rout, Unitas completed 9 of 16 passes, returned 6 kickoffs, made 86% of Louisville's tackles (he played offense and defense), and ran 22 yards for his team's only touchdown. When it was over, he got a huge ovation. No one saw how, in the locker room, he could not raise his arms and his uniform shirt had to be cut off him.
If you didn't get goose bumps just then, stay with me. You will. In Johnny Unitas, we are talking about a genuine hero --- and not just because he is regarded, almost universally, as the greatest football player of the first half of the twentieth century. Unitas is thrilling to read about, and to think about, because his struggle took place in the open, in real time, with the outcome uncertain and physical pain guaranteed. Unitas never complained. He never made apologies. He had a job to do, and it was his responsibility to get it done.
In a time when college football was a big deal and the pros were a bunch of rowdies who earned $5,000 or $6,000, he did that job so well that, like Michael Jordan, he made sport into art. He didn't know about wasted moves. A dancer: watch him drop back to pass. A magician: see him spin and feint.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As a fan of the early Colts I loved this book about Johnny U. So many athletes today are true selfies, ego and me. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Shive 1969
I loved Johnny U growing up as did most kids in the 1960s. The author filled the book with information about Johnny growing up and then playing in the NFL. Read morePublished 6 months ago by JBB1
After reading this well organized book, I am thinking that the skills and values of Johnny Unitas have been lost in the publicity given to the many great QBS who followed him. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Norman Jones
I grew up in Baltimore during the time described in this book. I can't imagine a better book for a dyed -in-the-wool Colts fan! Read morePublished 13 months ago by Craig M. Berg
I became a Colts fan when I watched the 1958 championship game with my dad, a Bears fan. He told me not to embrace any Chicago teams and I took his advice. Read morePublished 13 months ago by lawprof