The greatest quarterback of all-time? Maybe. The greatest athlete to ever wear the NFL jersey number 19? Definitely. Johnny Unitas is our choice as the best NFL athlete to ever wear number 19.
The Pittsburgh, PA native, who played his college ball at Louisville, was drafted by his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers in 1955. The Steelers decided to cut Unitas that year. Not the organization's best personnel move.
Weeb Ewbank, the coach of the Baltimore Colts, decided to give this youngster out of Louisville a try. This may have been the best personnel move ever by the Colts. Unitas was not the chosen starter as a rookie, however he did get playing time. In the fourth game of the 1956 season, starting QB George Shaw went down with an injury, and Unitas was given the ball. His pro career started with an interception which was returned for a touchdown. It was not an indication of things to come.
Unitas went on to throw nine touchdown passes as a rookie. In his last game of the 1956 season, he threw a TD pass that started a record 47 game consecutive streak of touchdowns thrown.
What else did Unitas accomplish in his NFL career?
- AP NFL MVP twice (1964 and 1967)
- 10-time Pro Bowl Selection
- 1979 Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection
- 290 Career Touchdowns
- 40,239 Career Passing Yards
- 78.2 Career QB Rating
- Super Bowl Champion Quarterback (Super Bowl V)
Did you know......Unitas worked at Bethlehem Steel in the off-season in addition to playing pro football for the Colts?