Screenplay by Joe Unitas and Nick Slatkin
Adapted from the book “Johnny U: The Life and Times of Johnny Unitas” by Tom Callahan
Produced by Gary Hudson, Joe Unitas, Nick Slatkin
Writers Guild of America Registration: #1969980
After experiencing a devastating personal loss, a young John Unitas, through sheer determination and
God-given talent, proves the experts wrong and becomes one of the greatest professional football
players in the history of the game.
John Unitas is considered the “Godfather” of the modern-day quarterback. He burst onto the
national scene on December 28, 1958 when he helped lead the Baltimore Colts to their first NFL World
Championship. On that day, the Colts defeated the New York Football Giants in what has become known
as the “Greatest Game Ever Played”. This game, the first ever nationally televised NFL Championship,
was watched by an audience of 40,000,000+. Prior to the 2017 Super Bowl, it was the only World
Championship/ Super Bowl to be decided in sudden death overtime. Even though Unitas solidified his
legend that day as one of the greatest athletes to ever play the game, his part Rocky part Rudy journey
to stardom, and eventually the Hall of Fame, was not an easy one.
UNITAS tells the story of John’s early life, age 5-25, and the pursuit of his childhood dream to become a
professional football player. John Unitas grew up sharing a very small house with his three siblings,
mother, father, and extended family in a poor part of Pittsburgh. Young John’s father, who became ill
from years of working in the Pennsylvania coal industry, died right in front of him when he was only five
years old. John’s older brother, Leonard, who was eleven years old at the time, quickly became the male
role model for John. Leonard took on work responsibilities, with the family coal delivery business, in
addition to attending school, to help support the family. Helen, John’s mother, took on three jobs to
support and provide for her family. The example’s set by Leonard and Helen regarding commitment,
work ethic, and toughness would prove valuable to John in his future pursuit of professional football
but, would also be detrimental to his marriage and family.
John faced recurring rejection, along with questions about his size and ability to play, throughout his
football career. Starting in middle school, through high school, college, and even his early years as a
professional John would repeatedly prove that “looks don’t count”.
In 1956, John is given a tryout and earns a roster spot with the Baltimore Colts. Over the next couple
years John struggles to balance his family, work, and football responsibilities. As the Colts are
positioning themselves for a run at the 1958 NFL Championship the unrest between John and his wife,
Dorothy, threatens their marriage and family. John must decide what’s more important, his family or the
opportunity to become a world champion