From 1st down, Unitas guided Redman

Raven: Finding a house, a car or the coach's ear, the young quarterback had a Hall of Famer clearing the way.

1933 - 2002

September 13, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

When Chris Redman arrived in Baltimore in 2000, the rookie quarterback didn't have a house, a car or a clue about starting in the NFL. But he did have one friend.

John Unitas, the great Baltimore Colts quarterback, put his golden arm around Redman from the beginning, endorsing him as the starter and helping him settle into the town that he captivated. Unitas' son, John Jr., was the real estate broker who located a house for Redman, and Unitas' longtime friend, Richard Sammis, hooked up Redman with a car from his dealership.

That's why the loss of Unitas hit Redman harder than any Raven. "He went out of his way to make me feel at home," Redman said. "It's like losing a family member."

Unitas and Redman shared a unique bond and a common path. They both starred at the University of Louisville and went on to became the starting quarterbacks for Baltimore's NFL team.

After first meeting Unitas as a high school senior, Redman later won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the nation's top senior quarterback in 2000.

Redman always felt like he could talk with Unitas, whether it was over Thanksgiving dinner or over the phone a day after a game. Redman remembers chatting with Unitas about one of his first touchdown throws as a rookie and having Unitas say, "But you can't float that ball up there, Redman."

The last time Redman spoke with Unitas was earlier this week, when the legendary quarterback congratulated Redman on throwing his first regular-season touchdown. Redman, though, is saddened by the fact that Unitas won't be there for his first start at home.

"Like everyone else in Baltimore, I lost a hero," Redman said. "He was definitely my hero, my mentor. It's going to be tough not to see him on the sidelines especially this Sunday and the rest of the year."

For Ravens coach Brian Billick, he didn't just see Unitas' admiration for Redman. He heard about it, too.

When Billick would bump into Unitas during dinner events, the conversation would always circle back to Redman and how he was progressing.

"Clearly, he was a strong advocate of Chris Redman," Billick said.

The coach said it will be awkward standing on the sideline of Ravens Stadium and not seeing Unitas there.

"Not to over-dramatize it, you look at the New York City skyline and Twin Towers aren't there. You look at New York and you immediately go, something is not right," Billick said. "Being in Baltimore and Johnny Unitas not here anymore just doesn't feel right."

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