2:00 AM Posted by Lori Calabrese

In the Pocket: Johnny Unitas and Me

Author: Mike Leonetti
Illustrator: Chris O'Leary
Publisher: Chronicle Books, July 2008
Reading Level: Ages 4-8

This is the second book in a series by Mike Leonetti about fictional encounters between children and their sports heroes. We've all imagined coming face to face with those we hold high on a pedestal, and probably still do today as adults. In Johnny Unitas and Me, Leonetti tackles one of the greatest professional football players in history. Our character, Billy, wants to be a great quarterback like his hero, Johnny Unitas, but his coach is worried he'll get hurt. When Billy meets his hero, the legendary football star tells him about his own challenges. And Johnny Unitas had a few. Despite an unpromising start in high school, Unitas went on to modest success at the University of Louisville and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1955. His slight build gave the Steelers doubts, however, and he was waived in the first year. After playing semi-pro football for a few dollars a game, Unitas was picked by the Baltimore Colts in 1956. He defied the skeptics and went on to earn a reputation as a tough competitor who was cool under pressure, and his winning performance in the 1958 title game against the New York Giants became legendary. After Billy watches Johnny's amazing performance in the 1958 National Football League championship, Billy is more determined than ever to beat the odds. This is a great tribute to a great football player and the artwork puts you right in the action.

Also, check out the first book in the series:
Swinging for the Fences: Hank Aaron and Me (Mark, a young boy who idolizes Hank Aaron, meets his hero and learns that there's more to being a great baseball player than hitting the ball out of the park.
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