Louisville's Unitas tribute reaches the end zone 1,000-pound monument unveiled for Colts great

September 06, 1998|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

He was nicknamed the "Golden Arm" but John Unitas is now in bronze -- all 7 feet, 1,000 pounds of quarterback, which makes for an impressive monument. Family, friends and former college teammates were present for the unveiling of the Unitas statue yesterday preceding the dedication of the University of Louisville's new Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, an impressive facility, that opened for its inaugural game with the University of Kentucky.

The statue was created by sculptor Frederick Kail of Lutherville, a friend of Unitas for 43 years, who said putting it together was a "labor of love." He added that the statue, the result of a year's work, "is truly a distinctive honor and privilege, especially since I was chosen by John to do this project."

The statue was produced at Baltimore's New Arts Foundry and shipped to Louisville in early August.

Unitas is thankful to his alma mater for the honor, saying, "It's very, very nice, and I didn't see the completed result until taking the veil off."

He called Kail "a really great artist who has a feeling for accurate detail in whatever it is he's doing."

Commissioned by the University of Louisville, the Unitas likeness was funded by Bell South. It depicts him wearing a Louisville uniform and jersey No. 16. He graduated from the university in 1955 and was drafted ninth by the Pittsburgh Steelers, his hometown team, but was released in training camp.

The next year he was signed as a free agent by the Baltimore Colts and played with them through 1972, taking the team to NFL titles in 1958, 1959 and 1970. He was the league's most valuable player three times, was in 10 Pro Bowls and was elected to the NFL's 75th anniversary team three years ago. At the time of his retirement he led the league in passes attempted, completions and touchdowns.

During his time at Louisville, the football program was de-emphasized, numerous recruits left the campus and the Cardinals had only one winning season. When Unitas reported to the Colts as a little-known prospect in 1956, he was handed jersey No. 19, the number he wore during an 18-year NFL career that made him a unanimous selection for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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