11. Johnny Unitas
Let’s face reality; without Unitas, we’re probably watching horrifying soccer every Sunday in autumn instead of the greatest sports league in human history, the NFL. Unitas stands alone for the simple but profound fact that he revolutionized the passing game in an era when the rules and regulations did not favor the quarterback.
Unitas threw for 40,000 career yards when such a total was unimaginable. “Johnny U” was also the NFL’s first superstar QB, ushering in the hype and popularity that is now routinely doled out to the Bradys and the Mannings of the post-merger NFL (since 1970).
Unitas was the star and winning hurler of the “greatest game ever played,” the 1958 NFL Championship that ushered in the modern popularity of a game that had previously been subordinate to both baseball and college football for decades. That all changed, thanks in large part to Johnny U, the NFL’s first alpha dog.