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Johnny U: The Life and Times of John Unitas
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Johnny U: The Life and Times of John Unitas

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  343 ratings  ·  37 reviews
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 c ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Crown (first published 2006)
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Obviously, this rating is biased as I am a native Baltimorean just old enough to remember the waning heyday of the Baltimore Colts before Robert "Darth" Irsay took over the team. Johnny Unitas was past his prime when I became aware of football, but he could still generate some excitement on a Sunday afternoon and send my parents into hysterics with a long pass. Despite the fact that I didn't see Unitas play during his best years, the man cast a long shadow over Baltimore, choosing to make the ci ...more
C Baker
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.

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
Bob Seaby
Comment: I grew up with the Baltimore Colts and Johnny Unitas was a real sports hero. Not only is this an enjoyable story about Unitas but it also provides some interesting details about the early days of the NFL. Johnny U. takes you back to the time when football was a game and not yet a business.
A decent biography obviously aimed at the football fans. The author did conduct an impressive number of interviews, which result in alot of interesting stories and tidbits, but at no time was I really fascinated by the book. The structure of the book is pretty loose, and you don't get the impression that the author really labored over the writing. I doubt that the non-football fan would really want to read this. Most enjoyable parts were the stories from the early years of Unitas' pro-career, wh ...more
Every kid has (or ought to have) heroes. For me, Johnny Unitas was one of the first. Unitas first achieved fame as the quarterback for the NFL's Baltimore Colts when I was too young to know football was, helping lead the Colts to the 1958 NFL championship in a game that is still called "The Greatest Game Ever Played." But by the time I was old enough to know what football was, there was no doubt who my favorite player was. Unitas ranked right up there with the astronauts.[return][return]That's w ...more
What a great read. It's about Johnny Unitas, sure, and that is reason enough to embrace any book. It's about football, the NFL, and how they've morphed over the years. It's about celebrity and how THAT has changed, too. And it's about Baltimore--its history and its people--and that truly is reason enough. If you ever cheered for Brooks Robinson, called someone "Hon," booed the Irsays, chipped your tooth on a crabshell, or spent your vacation in Ocean City, this book is for you.
I learned more about John Unitas in this book than I have in my 17 years living in Maryland. Yes, I'm a transplanted New Yorker and a Miami Dolphins fan, so following the Colts was like following the enemy (...and for Marylanders today, following the Colts means following the enemy).

Wonderful read, and I really like how Callahan told Unitas' story through the eyes and words of his coaches, teammates, family and friends. You saw a simply flash, no bravado, no ego...who could simply throw
There's probably better biographies of Johnny Unitas. Hopefully. A lot of focus on the Colts and Unitas' teammates, and not always as to how Unitas related to them. For large stretches, Unitas is not even mentioned and Callahan goes into great detail about characters like Johnny Sample.

More so, Callahan virtually ignores Unitas' first wife, Dorothy, who he briefly addresses as being a highly controversial character, with whom Unitas had five children. To my memory, none of the five are mentione
I thought the book was very good and gave good insight into Johnny U. And obviuously he is one of the all-time greats at QB, there are a ton of men from my grandfathers generation that will tell you he is the greatest they ever saw. But I've been a little surprised to study him and see how little his teams really won. They did win a championship game that is considered to be perhaps the greatest game ever played. But that was a function of the way the game was played and that they won (if it had ...more
Dale Stonehouse
Fans who can remember pro football before the Super Bowl will not be disappointed by this work of admiration, from the author to friends and family, teammates and opponents. In the days of 250-lb. linemen, 200-lb. linebackers and 170-lb. backs, the game was different, but everyone here says Unitas would have been a great player in any era. He may not have been the first quarterback to understand the value of deception in offensive football, but he certainly took it to another level. The list of ...more
Robert Pacilio
Well, I grew up loving Johnny Unitas. This was a excellent story of those days withthe then Baltimore Colts--when players played for the love of the game and played their hearts out. It pulls no punches since the players Unitas played with suffered from Parkinson's , dementia , etc. His life itself was cut short by a violent game. It is a novel about leadership and about loyality to one's team and teammates--be they black or white. When Johnny Unitas played and got into the huddle "It was like G ...more
Jun 15, 2013 Jeff added it
This book was very good, but not great. It was good to know more about Johnny U. I have always heard of him, but his career was winding down when I started watching the NFL as a young boy. Do remember seeing him in the San Diego uniform. For Christians, this is a football book, and some of the language it may not be something you will be comfortable with as you read. I am looking forward to the movie being made based on the book and to see how Joe Flacco does playing Johnny U. If you are not a f ...more
Ron Brown
I enjoyed reading about the NFL before it became a really big business. Johnny U played in the Colts-Giants that is generally credited with the beginning of the ascendancy of the NFL. But Johnny U played in the era when the players still had to have other jobs in the off-season. The book does a good job showing what a great leader Johnny U was on those Colts teams. It is a bit uneven in its coverage of his career with some years getting very short shrift. But overall a worthy read for anyone int ...more
A really great story about a time when football was played for fun and not dollars. The only thing holding this book back was the fact that it read like a really long human interest story for a newspaper that was peppered with a bunch of shorter human interest pieces in order to justify it as a book. I get really frustrated by reading newspaper men who can't break from their journalistic tendencies, the need to get every fact checked, site ever source. It gets old, just tell the story already.
Jul 18, 2007 Al rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Any one interested in Pro Football esp Johnny Unitas
Easy Read, well researched and full of what pro football was like in the 50's and 60's. Utilizes a lot of stories and direct quotes from players and coaches. The book centers around Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts. If you want an insight into any of the following
1) what football was like then,
2) the type of people that played it,
3) Johnny Unitas (the best Quarterback ever)and how he conducted himself as a leader on and off the field
4) Colt History

You cannot go wrong with this book.
Chris Witt
Nice little bio. My football knowledge really begins in the early 80s, so I knew next to nothing about Unitas and some of those powerhouse Baltimore Colts teams of his era. I always like to have a little knowledge about my sports history - mainly in baseball, as my friends know. So it was nice to get a little bit more knowledge of 60s football.

And I also know more about Art Donovan than I did just through his appearances on Letterman!

Solid write-up.
This wasn't so much a biography of Johnny Unitas as a look back at his Baltimore Colts teams. While that does tie in nicely with a player's quote (something like "To know one of us you have to know all of us") it makes for a fairly shallow look into the book's main subject. It was also difficult to discern who was being quoted at time since a large portion of the book is simply quotes.

An OK book to read as the current NFL season winds down but nothing special.
Todd Miles
Callahan does an excellent job with Unitas's childhood and early years with the Colts. Perhaps because of Unitas's reticence, the record of the latter years of both his career and life seems underdeveloped and incomplete. The book is well-written and thoroughly enjoyable. The quick bios of each of the key Colts was very well done, though I would have appreciated more detail on Raymond Berry's life. If you are a football fan, this is a must-read.
Apr 27, 2007 Jo rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves Johnny
This is either a no star or a 10 star depending on how old you are and how much you loved Johnny U. It is not only his story but the story of the Baltimore Colts in the 1950s and 60s. It is written in a very matter of fact style which apparently was the way Johnny talked. In the beginning he played for 14,000. and fun. To this day the Baltimore Ravens color guard carries a flag with number 19 at all home games.
They don't make em like this anymore. The portrait of Unitas that emerges is a born leader - the kind says it all without opening his mouth. Just the look in the eyes and you know what's expected. He played the game for the love of competition. After reading this book, the word I'm left with is, "character". He would have made a great military leader.
Butch Ward
Nov 14, 2007 Butch Ward rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who calls themselves a BALTIMORE Colts fan
Callahan not only gives us Johnny U, he gives us that unforgettable -- and irreplaceable -- Colts team that stole a city's heart and helped change the NFL forever. Gino, Lenny, Jim Parker -- they're all there to tell us about the bloodied, bow-legged quarterback and leader they followed into history.
Jun 18, 2007 Tim rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: dudes
cool look at the life of a legend...the fact that wile in college he was playing at the other team's stadium, lost the game, and still got a standing ovation from the other team's that alone is enough for a cheesey movie , but i don't think johnny u would have wanted that.
Scott Dobrosielsky
The best QB that ever played the game. Too bad I wasn't alive when he played. My grandfather was a Baltimore Colts season ticket holder, after they left town he never rooted for another team again. Johnny U was of course his hero.

Johnny U was the epitome of "old school." Callahan does a great job in educating the common reader of what Unitas was like as a person. I wished I was around to have watched him play in his prime.
A bit too much on everyone else on the Colts. I'm a Unitas fan, not a Colts' fan. That said, my admiration for a man like Unitas, who came out of the same area I did, grows with each chapter.
Jul 13, 2008 Patricia rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Sports enthusiasts, NFL fans
Shelves: sports
I enjoyed reading this book. Great history of the NFL coupled with lively stories and quotes about the game and by the men who played it when the NFL wasn't the big business it is today.

Bob Anderson
Great biography about the Greatest QB. Terrific narrative on the 1958 NFL Championship and relationship with his coaches from Frank Camp (U of Louisville) to Weeb Ewbank to Don Shula.
I was going a list of books I had read in past years that I forgot to record. This is one of them. A good biography about one the NFL greats. Reccomend it to football fans.
Jerry Della
Great memories of a great player and a bygone era of football. Did not like the writer's style. Poorly done.
This is by far the best football book i have read so far. If you are a football fan i reccomend this book to anyone.
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