At Towson, it's `Unitas Stadium'

11,198-seat facility honors former Colts quarterback

Colleges

April 29, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Disappointment - but not anger - flowed through the community of Baltimore Colts legends when the Ravens decided not to name their stadium in honor of John Unitas after the quarterback's death Sept. 11.

Unitas would have been the first to understand why it didn't happen, as fellow Hall of Famer Lenny Moore explained yesterday when Towson University announced plans to rename its 11,198-seat outdoor athletic facility Johnny Unitas Stadium.

"John was not the type of guy who concerned himself with anything personal, that focused on him," Moore said. "But he'd be tickled pink about what happened here today."

Unitas' widow, Sandy, unveiled a computer-adapted photograph showing the words "UNITAS STADIUM" in block letters above the main facade. It is scheduled to be formally dedicated Oct. 11.

Sandy Unitas said 70,000 Internet requests were received from fans to name Ravens Stadium after her husband, but that she understands "the position of the Modell family. It's a business."

Instead, Unitas will be memorialized by a university for which he had undertaken active involvement in as a community liaison in the final month of his life. One of his eight children graduated from Towson and two others are enrolled there.

"Towson is now my extended family. It has become a very special place to me," said Sandy, who has assumed John's duties and is in charge of a $5.25 million campaign to assist in financing the $33 million facility, home of Tigers football, lacrosse, field hockey and track and field. "I would say he'd be thrilled by this."

The money otherwise would have to be obtained through a corporate naming partnership.

Raymond Berry, who flew overnight from Denver to attend, introduced the old Colts on hand, including Moore, Elmer Wingate, Art DeCarlo, Bruce Laird, Rick Volk, Stan White, Fred Miller, Jim Mutscheller, John Mackey, Dick Bielski, Art Donovan and the voice of the team, Chuck Thompson.

Towson graduate Sean Landeta, still punting in the NFL at the age of 41, was also in the crowd.

"I would hope naming this stadium for John will inspire those who play here to live up to his example," Berry said. "I can't think of a better athlete, man or person to so honor."

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