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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Remembering Johnny Unitas

Johnny Unitas and I were very close. He was my favorite golf buddy in the off season. We even played Racket Ball together. One of the strangest days we had took place in 1968. The two of us traveled to the Towson YMCA, like any other outing, to play Racket ball. The two of us teamed up again two young ladies who were racket ball members of the YMCA. We were having a great time. John and I made a great pair on and off the field. Our fun was stopped short when at the front of the court John fell to the ground. “You tripped me!” he yelled back at me. I was standing in at the back of the court when I responded “John, I couldn’t have tripped you from all the way back here.” I quickly rushed him to Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. I wasn’t happy to call Coach McCafferty to tell him the news. “Mack, John just tore his Achilles’ Tendon” I said into the cold telephone connecting me to the coach. I had a reputation for being the team prankster and wasn’t surprised when Mack responded “Tom, that’s not funny.” I wish it had been a joke but I told him “Mack, I’m not trying to be funny. John really did tear his Achilles’ Tendon.” I don’t know what sort of stress the coach must have been in at this point but I had to be in Havre De Grace that evening. Driving to the restaurant in Havre de Grace, my stomach didn’t feel right. I assumed it was stress from a day at the hospital. I was wrong. I became very sick. I was taken to Union Memorial Hospital. Unfortunately, I had to call the coach for the second time that day with bad news. I too was in the hospital but at the time I had no idea why. Turns out, it was acute appendicitis. In less than 24 hours John and I went from Racket Ball partners to hospital roommates.

The whole hospital was humming. Johnny Unitas and Tom Matte were both in the hospital and our friends were visiting. All of our friends brought a case of beer with them. They wanted us to be able to have a couple of drinks when they visited. By the end of the day we had eight cases of beer against the wall! We actually had a good time in that hospital… but we were both happy to get out of there.

John and I had a lot of good times but I will always admire him. He was the epitome of professionalism. He always had a game plan. He had a great arm and he was always thinking. He practiced intensely. He’s the reason I was in the league for 12 years. He helped me understand what the defenses were and how to read them like he read them. He told me that if I could read the defense the same way he could, then he could always anticipate where I’d be on each and every play. He was right. We had a great rapport with each other.He said he knew where I would be every play and he wanted me in his back field, and his back field is where I was. John was a true leader on the field. When we got into a huddle, there wasn’t a peep. We waited silently because when John spoke, we all listened. We were incredibly successful all the years we played.

It’s because of my admiration as well as what Johnny Unitas means to football that we decided to release his Keepr collectible first. He really is a Keepr Legend. His Keepr card will have his hall of fame speech, his statistics, different head shots, different posing shots, his two minute offense, and his interviews. We dug into the NFL vaults to get footage of Johnny Unitas that people haven’t seen in 40 years.

Johnny Unitas’ legacy will live on and what he’s done will never be forgotten. I’m excited to give a Johnny Unitas Keepr to my grandson so I can show him why Johnny Unitas is a legend. 


  1. We are in the process of putting Johnny's Story on the Silver Screen..."Unitas We Stand" Please check out our website and spread the word.

  2. Johnny Unitas & Tom Mattie were my hero's as a kid growing up playing football & lacrosse at the Dundalk YMCA.

    Tom Mattie spoke at a retirement dinner at the Sparrows Point Country Club attended by my father Buddy. I still have the signed autograph from Tom Mattie from that dinner. I was #41 in football & lacrosse when I could choose my number or when it was available.

    Mr. Mattie, I see you are wearing your "Ohio State" helmet in the above photo! I also remember your remarkable game vs. the Packers in the 1965 playoffs & how you destroyed the Cowboys in the 1965 Playoff Bowl. God bless you Tom Mattie for the memories!

    Jimmy Perouty

  3. Ihave vivid memories of Tom Matte pushing a 2 man sled, being interviewed and stating if he did not do this he would not be ready for the season. The other memory is an interview in Memorial Stadium with Lenny Moore, Tom stated people are calling Dallas Americas' team, Tom said that was BULLSH#t,every place we go EVERYONE KNOWS' US, i'll never forget it, would like to find a copy of that interview. Thanks for all the memories Tom Matte,Regards, Bob Stinson.