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[OCT. 25, 2006]  "Johnny U: The Life & Times Of John Unitas.  Tom Callahan, Crown Publishers, 2006, 292 pages.

In the storied history of the National Football

League few players stand out more than Johnny Unitas.  The legendary quarterback of the Baltimore Colts is widely regarded as one of the league’s greatest players, “the football player,” according to Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff.  In Johnny U, the first authoritative biography of Unitas, author Tom Callahan chronicles the life and career of this consummate athlete.  Johnny Unitas is regarded by many as the greatest quarterback in NFL history.  In addition he also possessed certain character traits that made him so successful on the field.  According to Callahan, “Few took more punishment…his refusal to leave the field won his teammates respect…his insistence on taking the blame for others’ mistakes inspired their love.” 


These qualities helped Unitas develop into a fierce competitor who displayed an almost ‘field general’ like quality on the field while possessing an, “encyclopedic football mind in which he filed every play the Colts had ever run.”  Few observers of the game initially guessed that the skinny kid from the University of Louisville would make it in the NFL.  Unitas was rejected at both the collegiate and professional levels by Notre Dame and the Pittsburgh Steelers and began his career with a Pennsylvania sandlot team.  By 1958 his years of hard work and perseverance paid off when he led the Colts to the NFL championship over the New York Giants.  This game is considered a seminal moment in American sports history since the Colts’ heartstopping overtime victory forever changed the Sunday television viewing habits of millions of Americans and propelled the NFL to its dominance of the American sports scene.  Unitas’s incredible career continued until his retirement in 1974.  By that time he had established his reputation as one of the NFL’s premier quarterbacks and most feared competitors.  The culmination of his career came in 1979 when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, And The Home Front, In The Words Of U.S. Troops And Their Families.  Andrew Carroll, editor, Random House, 2006, 386 pages.

This book is the result of an unprecedented project by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to establish a writing program for combat participants in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.  The NEA’s goal was to bring together some of America’s best writers and poets through a series of workshops for enlisted and former military personnel of these conflicts.  These workshops would encourage them to share their feelings, experiences, and beliefs in a written format to underscore, “how crucially important the art of literature might be to military personnel undergoing huge changes in their lives.”  These life changes were a result of the experiences of going into battle; interacting with foreign troops/citizens; daily life on the front lines; the effects on their spouses/loved ones; the brutality of war; the tearful homecomings; and the ceremonies for those who died for our country.  The NEA’s original plan called for ten workshops on five American military bases.  When the program was unveiled on April 20, 2004 it became clear from the overwhelming public response that the plan was inadequate.  The program was quickly modified to offer fifty workshops on twenty-five bases in five different countries (workshops were also conducted on an aircraft carrier and fleet ship stationed in the Persian Gulf).  The program’s objective was to, “invite troops and their families to discuss and write about their wartime experiences while the events were still happening, rather than years later.”  The result is, “an unflinching and intensely revealing look into the lives of extraordinary men and women.  What they have written is without question some of the greatest wartime literature ever published.”  

Review by
Richard Sumrall


[Lincoln Public Library District]

[Richard Sumrall, Lincoln Public Library District]

[Louella Moreland, youth services librarian, Lincoln Public Library District]

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