By Ed Peak
Johnny Unitas and Lamar Jackson arguably impacted University of Louisville football more than any former players. It’s ironic that Unitas was with the Baltimore Colts and a Super Bowl champion. Jackson the 2019 NFL MVP plays in Baltimore, for the Ravens.
Unitas was recruited out of Pennsylvania by the late Frank Gitschier for Coach Frank Camp’s Cardinals in the early 1950s. Gitschier saw something in Unitas and he was right. Unitas would go on to become an outstanding quarterback and one of the NFL’s all time greats.
Jackson, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2018, is off to a great start professional journey, He led the Ravens to a division championship and the No. 1 seed last season, only to be upset by the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs.
He was a raw freshman when coach Bobby Petrino slipped him into his first game at halfback. Taking a pitchout from ReggIe Bonnafon, his first pass was intercepted by an Auburn defender in the Chic-fil-A Kickoff Classic.
By the end of the season in the Music City Bowl, Jackson, ran and passed his way to a history making performance in a win over Texas A&M. Rushing for 226 yards and throwing for two touchdowns. Only the third quarterback in history to rush and pass for over 200 yards in a bowl game.
Jackson set the bar high in three seasons Louisville. His three year rushing total is a UofL record of 4,132 yards in three seasons, 2015-17. He also passed for 4,328 yards and 42 touchdowns.
Other Cardinals fans listed as their favorites.
— Jimmy French wrote Jay Gruden “one hell of a quarterback at UofL. Stefan LeFors, MVP of the Liberty Bowl in a win over top 10 Boise State. Otis Wilson crushing opposing offensive backs.
— Barbara S listed Jackson, Teddy Bridgewater, LeFlors, Chris Redman, Brian Brohm. Honorable mention, kicker David Akers.
— Mark Messina has Redmon, Michael Bush, Brian Brohm, DeVante Parker and Jackson.
I add Jeff Brohm, Arnold Jackson, John Madeya, Howard Stevens, Mark Clayton, Harry Douglas, Wally Olyer, Lenny Lyles, Otto Knopp, Amos Martin, Deion Branch, Bruce Armstrong, Ted Washington, Elvis Dumervil, Ken Kortas, Ray Buchanan, Ernie Green, Benny Russell.
I know I’m leaving some out. Louisville sure has had a lot of standouts. The Cardinals all-time bowl record in 22 games, 10-11-1. Not Alabama or Notre Dame. But not embarrassing in the least.