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Friday, September 13, 2002
ESPN Classic remembers Johnny Unitas


The National Football League lost a legend with the passing of Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas. Unitas, 69, had a heart attack while working out at a physical therapy center in the Baltimore suburb of Timonium, said Vivienne Stearns-Elliott, a spokeswoman for St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson.
Johnny Unitas
Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas delivered Baltimore its first NFL championship.
ESPN Classic celebrates the life and career of Unitas with a Classic Johnny Unitas Tribute on Wednesday, Sept. 18 from 3 p.m. - midnight ET.

Unitas led the Colts to NFL titles in 1958 and '59, helped them win Super Bowl V, was chosen to five all-league teams and was Player of the Year three times. He played in 10 Pro Bowls. He threw at least one touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games, an NFL record that began in his rookie year. Unitas retired after the 1973 season with 22 NFL records.

ESPN Classic
Johnny Unitas Tribute
Wednesday, Sept. 18
3 p.m. - midnight ET

3 p.m. - The Legend of Johnny Unitas

3:30 p.m. - Sports Challenge: NFL Great Quarterbacks vs. Chicago Cubs

4 p.m. - Sports Challenge: NFL Great Quarterbacks vs. California Angels

4:30 p.m. - NFL Yearbook: 1964 Baltimore Colts

5 p.m. - NFL Yearbook: 1965 Baltimore Colts

5:30 p.m. - Up Close Classics: Baltimore Colts

6 p.m. - NFL Yearbook: 1967 Baltimore Colts

6:30 p.m. - NFL Yearbook: 1970 Baltimore Colts

7 p.m. - Best Ever Quarterbacks

Unitas threw at least one TD pass in 47 consecutive games.
8 p.m. - SportsCentury: Johnny Unitas

9 p.m. - NFL's Greatest Games - 1958 Championship:
Colts vs. Giants

Johnny Unitas leads the Colts to a 23-17 overtime victory in what was called "The Greatest Game Ever Played." The Colts kicked a 20-yard field goal to force the first ever overtime in championship game.

10:30 p.m. - 1959 NFL Championship - Giants vs. Colts
Unitas throws for 265 yards, two TDs and runs for another score in the Colts' 31-16 victory over New York.

11 p.m. - SportsCentury: Johnny Unitas

What They're Saying about Johnny Unitas

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue:
"Johnny Unitas will always be a legendary name in NFL history. One of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, he epitomized the position with his leadership skills and his ability to perform under pressure."

Don Shula, who coached Unitas from 1963-69:
"He was one of the toughest competitors I ever knew, and overcame tremendous odds to become one of the greatest players in NFL history."

Sid Luckman, Chicago Bears great QB of the 1940s:
"Johnny Unitas is the greatest quarterback ever to play the game, better than I was, better than Sammy Baugh, better than anyone."

Hall of Famer Raymond Berry, a teammate of Unitas':
"To be in Baltimore as a receiver and get to play 12 years with him, I have to classify as the best break I ever got in my career. The type of quarterback he was, the leader he was, he was totally focused on moving the football, scoring points and winning."

Ozzie Newsome, Ravens senior vice president of football operations:
"I don't have many heroes. Very plain and simply, Johnny Unitas was one of my heroes. "When you think of Baltimore, you think of Johnny Unitas."

Ernie Accorsi, Giants GM who worked with the Colts' in Unitas' final years:
"What made him the greatest quarterback of all time wasn't his arm or his size, it was what was inside his stomach. I've always said the purest definition of leadership was watching Johnny Unitas get off the team bus."