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Johnny Unitas

Merv Corning, 1926 - 2006
John Constatine Unitas, 7 May 1933 - 11 Sep 2002
Watercolor on paper
Sheet: 45 × 30cm (17 11/16 × 11 13/16")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Partial gift of Carol J. Boss in memory of David A. Boss
Restrictions & Rights
© Tula Corning
Object number
Exhibition Label
Born Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Dubbed the “Golden Arm,” Johnny Unitas is widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in professional football history. Unitas led the Baltimore Colts, where he played for seventeen of his eighteen years in the National Football League, to three championships, winning three trophies for most valuable player and invitations to ten Pro Bowl games along the way.
This life portrait of Unitas by Merv Corning—one of the more than 300 portraits of NFL players that the self-taught artist made beginning in 1967—shows Unitas as many on the field saw him: a leader known for his steely determination and keen strategizing. Commissioned by David Boss, the NFL’s pioneering creative director for a quarter of a century, it also reveals the rising significance of image-making, marketing, and branding in professional sports.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection