WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA’S SIX PROFESSIONAL QUARTERBACKS CELEBRATED AT 2015 PITTSBURGH EVENT, GRIDIRON GOLD
Art Rooney II Served as Honorary Chair for Event Recognizing Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Joe Namath and the Families of George Blanda and Johnny Unitas
The six native western Pennsylvanians who are Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks were honored at GRIDIRON GOLD in Pittsburgh on June 6, 2015. Presented by Neighborhood Legal Services Association (NLSA), the event took place at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh. The honorary chair of the event was Art Rooney II, President, Pittsburgh Steelers. Joining Rooney in person were Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Joe Montana and Joe Namath along with John Unitas, Jr., and members of the George Blanda family.
“Western Pennsylvania is, as far as we know, the only region to produce six legendary, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks,” says Rooney. “This promises to be an exceptional event for sports fans in this region. I am pleased to serve as Honorary Chair and proud to support the outstanding work of NLSA in our community.”
The GRIDIRON GOLD event was the first time that all Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks with roots in western Pennsylvania were together to be recognized for their achievements at a single event in their hometown area.
“We are honored that these outstanding athletes and their families have accepted the invitation from NLSA and Art Rooney to return home to receive some long-overdue, hometown appreciation,” says Bob Racunas, Esq., Executive Director of NLSA. “Art Rooney has worked on our behalf for many months to make this event a reality, and we are indebted to him. Without a doubt, GRIDIRON GOLD is sure to be a memorable event, unlike anything this region has experienced.”
ABOUT THE QUARTERBACKS
Jim Kelly was born in Pittsburgh, and soon after, his family moved to East Brady, PA (Clarion County). Kelly was a first-round draft pick in 1983 following his college career at the University of Miami. After making his debut with the Houston Gamblers in 1984, Kelly played for the Buffalo Bills from 1986-1996, leading his team to four Super Bowl appearances.
A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Dan Marino was born and raised in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. In the 1983 NFL Draft, he was the first-round choice of the Miami Dolphins, and Marino spent all of his 16 years in the NFL with the Dolphins. In 1984, Marino led the Dolphins to the Super Bowl, and he continues to hold a number of NFL passing records.
Joe Montana was born in New Eagle, PA (Washington County) and is a four-time Super Bowl champion. A graduate of Notre Dame University, he made his professional debut in 1979 with the San Francisco 49ers and last played in 1994 for the Kansas City Chiefs. During his career, he engineered 31 late-game wins, the most in NFL history.
“Broadway Joe” Namath played college football for the University of Alabama. In 1965, the New York Jets made Namath their first-round draft choice. In 1968, Namath led the Jets to a stunning victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. He played for the Jets for 11 years before ending his career with the Los Angeles Rams in 1977. Namath was born in Beaver Falls, PA.
George Blanda played 26 seasons in the NFL – more than anyone in history. Blanda was born in Youngwood, PA (Westmoreland County) and played ball as both a quarterback and placekicker. A graduate of the University of Kentucky, Blanda was signed by the Chicago Bears in 1949. He went on to play with the Houston Oilers and Oakland Raiders and led the Raiders to Super Bowl II. Blanda died in 2010. His family represented him at the GRIDIRON GOLD event.
Affectionately called “The Golden Arm,” Johnny Unitas was born and raised in Pittsburgh’s Mt. Washington neighborhood and played for the University of Louisville. After a brief time on the practice squad of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1955, he signed with the Baltimore Colts and played for the team from 1956 – 1972, including in the 1968 Super Bowl. He ended his career in 1973 with the San Diego Chargers. Unitas died in 2002. He was represented by his son John Unitas Jr. (also born in Pittsburgh) at the GRIDIRON GOLD event.