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

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Synopsis

In a time “when men played football for something less than a living and something more than money,” John Unitas was the ultimate quarterback. Rejected by Notre Dame, discarded by the Pittsburgh Steelers, he started on a Pennsylvania sandlot making six dollars a game and ended as the most commanding presence in the National Football League, calling the critical plays and completing the crucial passes at the moment his sport came of age.

Johnny U is the first authoritative biography of Unitas, based on hundreds of hours of interviews with teammates and opponents, coaches, family and friends. The depth of Tom Callahan’s research allows him to present something more than a biography, something approaching an oral history of a bygone sporting era. It was a time when players were paid a pittance and superstars painted houses and tiled floors in the off-season—when ex-soldiers and marines like Gino Marchetti, Art Donovan, and “Big Daddy” Lipscomb fell in behind a special field general in Baltimore. Few took more punishment than Unitas. His refusal to leave the field, even when savagely bloodied by opposing linemen, won his teammates’ respect. His insistence on taking the blame for others’ mistakes inspired their love. His encyclopedic football mind, in which he’d filed every play the Colts had ever run, was a wonder.

In the seminal championship game of 1958, when Unitas led the Colts over the Giants in the NFL’s first sudden-death overtime, Sundays changed. John didn’t. As one teammate said, “It was one of the best things about him.”


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Tom Callahan

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Tom Callahan is a columnist at Golf Digest. He is the author of more than thirty Time cover stories on subjects ranging from Joe Montana to Pete Rose. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
 
Published April 23, 2010 by Crown Archetype. 328 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Sports & Outdoors. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Though a few stories stray too far from the core narrative, most of them flesh out the world around Unitas, providing insight into this cool, collected leader who inspired his teammates and epitomized what it was to be a professional football player during the game’s halcyon days.

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Publishers Weekly

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In a book that is "as much about a certain time as a single player," journalist Callahan (In Search of Tiger ) offers not only a biography of one of professional football's early legends but also a look at the nature of the sport in his day.

Jul 31 2006 | Read Full Review of Johnny U: The Life and Times ...

BC Books

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I am one of many who, like Unitas, believe the Colts ceased to exist when owner Robert Irsay unilaterally relocated the team under the cover of darkness in March 1984.) While those teammates talk about Unitas, we learn as much about them and their backgrounds as we do Unitas.

Jan 06 2007 | Read Full Review of Johnny U: The Life and Times ...

Bleacher Report

I love reading about football, football history, and great players of the past, so I very much enjoyed this biography of John Unitas (1933-2002), one of the best quarterbacks in professional football history.

Feb 07 2009 | Read Full Review of Johnny U: The Life and Times ...

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