NGSC Sports

Steelers President Art Rooney II Announces Gridiron Gold Event

When it come to football, Western Pennsylvania is renown for being the home to some of the greatest quarterbacks in history.

On Saturday, June 6, 2015, beginning at 5:30 pm at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II will Serve as Honorary Chair recognizing six Hall of Fame Quarterbacks from Western, PA: George Blanda, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, & Johnny Unitas!

Johnny Unitas, Jr., the family of George Blanda, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, and Joe Namath will all be present, and it will be an incredible opportunity to see some of the most legendary players all together at once.

The event will begin at 5:30 pm when guests will have the chance to bid on both live and silent auctions on one-of-a-kind sports memorabilia items and sports event packages.

After dinner, there will be a special presentation to the quarterbacks, highlighting their outstanding careers. The legends will then participate in an armchair discussion, as they relate some of their favorite moments on and off the gridiron.

Check out www.GridironGoldPgh.com for all ticket information.

[airesizeimg src=”http://ngscsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Art-Rooney-II.jpg” alt=”Art Rooney II” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-7850″ ]

 

Here is a brief history of these amazing players, courtesy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

George Blanda played pro football for 26 seasons – longer than any other person. However, he’ll probably be remembered best for his 1970 season with the Oakland Raiders. That year, in a five-game period, George provided Oakland with four wins and one tie with last-second touchdown passes or field goals – at age 43.

The string started with a three-touchdown passing and one field goal outburst against Pittsburgh and continued with a 48-yard field goal with three seconds left to tie Kansas City. He threw a scoring pass and added a 52-yard field goal in the last 96 seconds to defeat Cleveland. Next came a winning touchdown toss against Denver and a last-instant field goal to upend San Diego.

During his career, Blanda accumulated impressive credentials. He passed for 236 touchdowns and scored an incredible 2,002 points. In 1970, he became the oldest quarterback to play in a title game. Although the Baltimore Colts won 27-17, Blanda accounted for all of the Raiders’ points off two touchdown passes and one field goal. Blanda’s career was divided into three distinct parts, 10 years with the Chicago Bears followed by seven seasons with the Houston Oilers and nine-years with the Oakland Raiders. He was just a month shy of his 49th birthday when he retired before the 1976 season.

Blanda did not become a fulltime starter until his fifth season with the Bears and in 1954 he was shelved by an injury. In 1959, he balked at becoming a kicker-only and retired. But the emergence of the American Football League in 1960 gave Blanda another chance to play. He went on to lead the Oilers to the first two AFL titles and won AFL Player of the Year honors in 1961. In 1967, when Blanda was almost 40, the Oilers decided he was through but the Raiders saw George as a contributing backup passer and a dependable kicker so they picked him up. George handled both jobs with distinction for another nine seasons.

 

The Buffalo Bills selected quarterback Jim Kelly in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft. However, the Miami Hurricane star opted to sign with the Houston Gamblers of the United States Football League. Kelly, in two seasons with the Gamblers, threw for 9,842 yards and 83 touchdowns.

The USFL folded following the 1985 season, and Kelly, just prior to the start of the 1986 NFL season, signed with the Bills.

A strong-armed passer with a “linebacker’s mentality,” Kelly lived up to his advance billing, as he virtually rewrote the Bills’ record book for quarterbacks. Only three players in NFL history had reached the 30,000-yard career passing mark faster. Eight times during his NFL career he passed for more than 3,000 yards in a season, and twenty-six times he passed for more than 300 yards in a game. On September 13, 1992, in a 34-31 shootout victory over the Steve Young-led San Francisco 49ers, Kelly passed for a career-high 403 yards.

The Bills, during the 1990s, with Kelly and teammates Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed, possessed a highly potent offense. Kelly’s quick decisiveness and fast paced “no-huddle” offense terrorized opposing defenses. He led the NFL in passing in 1990 and the AFC again in 1991. With his 101.2 passer rating in 1990, he became only the fifth quarterback to maintain a rating over 100 since the system was introduced in 1973.

In 11 seasons in Buffalo, Kelly led the Bills to the playoffs eight times. In 17 playoff game appearances, including four consecutive Super Bowls, he passed for 3,863 yards and 21 touchdowns. At the time of his retirement, his 84.4 passer rating ranked sixth all-time and was second when compared to Hall of Fame quarterbacks. His 35,467 career passing yards ranked tenth in NFL history; his 2,874 completions ranked eighth; and his 237 touchdowns ranked thirteenth.

At the time of Kelly’s retirement, only Fran Tarkenton, Dan Fouts, and Johnny Unitas among Hall of Fame quarterbacks had passed for more yardage, and only Tarkenton, and Fouts had completed more passes.

 

The Miami Dolphins, much to their surprise at the time, found University of Pittsburgh quarterback Dan Marino still available when it came time to make their first pick in the 1983 National Football League Draft. Five other quarterbacks, including Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and John Elway, had been taken before the Dolphins grabbed Marino with the 27th pick overall.

Marino earned the starting role early in his rookie season and, for the next 17 years the fortunes of the franchise rode on his shoulders. By the time he retired following the 1999 NFL season, Marino had literally rewritten the passing section of the NFL’s record book.

Marino became the Dolphins starter in the sixth week of his rookie season. He immediately took charge of the Dolphins’ offense and guided the team to a 12-4 record and the AFC East title. He threw 20 touchdowns and recorded a 96.0 passer rating to earn Rookie of the Year honors. He was also named to the first of his nine Pro Bowl selections.

Marino’s performance the following season was unlike any seen in NFL history as he guided the Dolphins to a 14-2 record and a division crown. He became the first player ever to pass for 5,000 yards in a single season finishing with a remarkable 5,084 yards. His 48 touchdown passes obliterated the previous record, 36 touchdowns passes held by Y.A. Tittle and George Blanda. By season’s end, he had set six league records and was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. In the 1984 AFC Championship Game, Marino passed for 421 yards and threw four touchdowns in the Dolphins’ 45-28 shootout win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, earning his first and only trip to the Super Bowl.

By the end of the 1995 season, Marino had supplanted Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton as the career-passing leader in attempts, completions, yards, and touchdowns.  His career totals are staggering as he completed 4,967 of 8,358 passes for 61,361 yards, and threw 420 touchdowns during his 242-game NFL career.

Thirteen times in his career Marino passed for 3,000 yards or more in a season which includes the six seasons he reached the 4,000-yard plateau.

Marino was named first- or second-team All-Pro eight times and earned All-AFC honors six times.

 

Joe Montana, selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round of the 1979 National Football League Draft, had a stellar career with the 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs. A master of late-game comebacks, Montana directed his teams to 31 fourth quarter come-from-behind wins during his illustrious career, including a 92-yard drive in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XXIII.

His uncanny ability to bring a team back from apparent defeat was so common that it simply became referred to as “Montana Magic.” A true student of the game, Montana won the NFL’s passing title in both 1987 and 1989. He topped the NFC in passing five times (1981, 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1989).

Thirty-nine times he passed for more than 300 yards in a game, including seven times in which he surpassed 400 yards. His six 300-yard passing performances in the post-season are an NFL record. He also owns the career playoff record for attempts, completions, touchdowns, and yards gained passing.

Eleven times the New Eagle, Pennsylvania native led his team to the playoffs. Along the way, he captured nine divisional championships and victories in Super Bowls XVI, XIX, XXIII, and XXIV. His outstanding play in Super Bowls XVI, XIX, and XXIV earned him Most Valuable Player honors in each game.

Named All-NFL three times and All-NFC on five occasions, Montana was voted to the Pro Bowl eight times, which was a league record for a quarterback at the time. In 1992, after missing 31 consecutive games due to an injury to his throwing arm, Montana made a dramatic comeback. In the second half of the regular season finale, a Monday Night Football offering vs. the Detroit Lions, Montana performed his magic of old, completing 15 of 21 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns as the 49ers defeated the Lions 24-6.

In 1994 Montana became just the fifth quarterback to pass for more than 40,000 yards in a career. At the time of his retirement, he ranked fourth in career passing yardage (40,551 yards), attempts (5,391), and passing touchdowns (273). His 3,409 completions ranked third all-time, and his career passer rating of 92.3 was second all-time.

 

Joe Namath is best remembered for his performance in the New York Jets’ stunning 16-7 upset of the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. However, during his 13-year tenure from 1965 through 1977 he was one of the game’s most exciting, proficient and publicized quarterbacks.

Namath’s place in history was assured with his first pro football act, the signing of a reported $400,000 contract early in 1965 that gave the American Football League its biggest victory in the costly inter-league war of the 1960s. The National Football League’s St. Louis Cardinals had also drafted Namath. “Broadway Joe,” as he quickly became known, won a starting job in his third game on his way to AFL Rookie of the Year acclaim in 1965.

In 1967, he became the first quarterback to pass for more than 4,000 yards in one season. In 1968, he capped off AFL Player of the Year and unanimous All-Pro selection with MVP honors in Super Bowl III. Namath’s pre-game “guarantee” of victory backed up by his 206-yard passing production was a major factor in assuring the competitive viability of the AFL-NFL Super Bowl series.

Namath was plagued with knee injuries through much of his career. Still he completed 1,886 passes for 27,663 yards and 173 touchdowns in 12 seasons with the Jets and a final try with the Los Angeles Rams in 1977. He enjoyed many exceptional days, one of which came in the 1968 AFL title game. He threw three touchdown passes to lead New York to a 27-23 win over the Oakland Raiders that set up the dramatic Super Bowl III confrontation.

Namath earned all-league accolades four times in his career (1967, 1968, 1969, and 1972) and was named to the all-time AFL honor team in 1969. He was also elected to four AFL all-star games and one AFC-NFC Pro Bowl.

 

Few, if any, sports stories are more dramatic or more complete than the story of Johnny Unitas. A ninth-round draft choice of the 1955 Pittsburgh Steelers, Unitas was cut before he even threw one pass in a game. Still determined, he played semi-pro football for $6 a game.

After the season, the Baltimore Colts coach Weeb Ewbank learned of the “outstanding prospect” on the Pittsburgh sandlots. Ewbank signed Johnny for $17,000 on a make the team basis. Programmed strictly as a backup, Unitas got his chance in the fourth game when the Colts’ starter was injured.

Unitas’ first pass was intercepted for a touchdown but from that moment on, he never looked back. For the next 18 seasons, “Johnny U” ran up a ledger of game winning exploits seldom matched in NFL history.

Without a doubt, it was his last-second heroics in the 1958 NFL title game, often called “the greatest game ever played,” that turned Unitas into a household name. The New York Giants, with two minutes to play, were leading, 17-14, when the Colts started a last-gasp drive at their own 14. “Mr. Clutch” went coolly to work with seven straight passes that set up a game-tying field goal with seven seconds left. Unitas then engineered a textbook perfect 80-yard march to win the game in overtime. The game, played before a national television audience, gave Unitas his chance to demonstrate all of his marvelous attributes – confidence, courage, leadership, play calling genius, and passing skill.

Unitas’ career statistics include 40,239 yards and 290 touchdowns passing. His record of at least one touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games may stand forever. A genuine team player, Unitas was a first- or second-team All-NFL choice eight years, selected NFL Player of the Year three times, and named to 10 Pro Bowls.

 

Author Profile

Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

There's nowhere on earth that is more dedicated to its sports teams like Western Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh. The passion and pride of Pittsburgh's fan base is second to no one. From the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA football and basketball, to W.P.I.A.L. high school sports, "The City of Champions" has it all!

As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides the best opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania.

For a refreshing view of sports, mixed with humor and uncensored opinions, check out Pittsburgh SportsNation today on Facebook, Twitter and videos with over 1,000,000 views on YouTube!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: