19 – what a difficult number to pick. A couple of names stick out in basketball, Willis Reed and Lenny Wilkins. In hockey are a few absolute greats of the game – in Larry Robinson, Joe Sakic, Bryan Trottier, and Steve Yzerman. In baseball there are a also a solid group of men at 19 – Tony Gwynn, Robin Yount, Fred Lynn, and Bob Feller. In the NFL, Bernie Kosar of the Clowns, arguably one of the best collector jerseys of all time – the powder blue Chargers Lance Alworth, and some guy named John Unitas.
After some thoughts about this number a Mt. Rushmore would be more appropriate, but for the purpose of keeping with the other posts in the series, there is only one 19 and that is the original John Q Football – John Constantine Unitas.
Unitas was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he never played a snap for them, not even in practice. Steelers Coach Walk Kiesling had already made up his mind on Unitas and decided that Johnny U was not smart enough to play the position. Irony, as Unitas would be one of the best field generals of all time, and would help to innovate the two minute offense to the game.
Unitas was out of football and went to work construction. He tagged along to a Baltimore Colts tryout and was signed. Playing under Weeb Eubank the rest as they say is history.
Unitas would win 3 mvp awards and would be named the NFL’s best player of its first 50 years.
In his later years Unitas would bring light to former players ailments. Unitas had suffered an elbow injury during his playing years which severely limited the use of his right arm.
Many have worn the number 19 – almost all have done the number justice – but when I think of the number 19 on a uniform – all I can see is the Baltimore Colts 19.