Seven outstanding senior quarterbacks have been selected as finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented annually to the nation's top senior collegiate quarterback by the Frank Camp Chapter of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation.
The finalists for the award include Brett Basanez (Northwestern), Kellen Clemens (Oregon), Brodie Croyle (Alabama), Jay Cutler (Vanderbilt), Matt Leinart (USC), Drew Olson (UCLA), D.J. Shockley (Georgia).
Ranked second nationally in total offense, Basanez has passed for 1,850 yards and 10 touchdowns with only one interception for Northwestern. Ranked fifth nationally in passing, Clemens has thrown for 2,219 yards and 18 touchdowns for No. 15 Oregon. Alabama's career passing touchdown leader (36), Croyle has passed for 1,345 yards and nine touchdowns for the fifth-ranked Crimson Tide. Second in all-time passing yardage at Vanderbilt, Cutler has thrown for 1,663 yards and eight touchdowns.
Ranked eighth nationally in both passing efficiency and total offense, Leinart has passed for 1,947 yards and 12 touchdowns for top-ranked USC, where he is 31-1 as a starter. Olson has thrown for 1,612 yards and 15 touchdowns for eighth-ranked UCLA while ranking 11th nationally in passing efficiency. Shockley has thrown for 1,464 yards and 11 touchdowns for fourth-ranked Georgia, where he ranks 13th nationally in passing efficiency.
The nation's top senior quarterback is selected for the award from a list compiled by a select committee of football experts from across the United States. The 2005 recipient will be announced Nov. 30, with the award presentation to be made in Louisville on December 9 at the Clarion Conference Center.
The organization is currently accepting ticket orders for the award dinner (502-485-3331). Tickets are $35 each or tables of eight for $280.
The prestigious award bears the name of who many refer to as the finest quarterback to ever play the game of football. Established in 1987, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award has previously honored 18 outstanding young men.
Oklahoma quarterback Jason White won the award last year. Other past recipients include Don McPherson (Syracuse, 1987), Rodney Peete (USC, 1988), Tony Rice (Notre Dame, 1989), Craig Erickson (Miami, Fla., 1990), Casey Weldon (Florida St., 1991), Gino Torretta (Miami, Fla., 1992), Charlie Ward (Florida St., 1993), Jay Barker (Alabama, 1994), Tommie Frazier (Nebraska, 1995), Danny Wuerffel (Florida, 1996), Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997), Cade McNown (UCLA, 1998), Chris Redman (Louisville, 1999), Chris Weinke (Florida State, 2000), David Carr (Fresno State, 2001), Carson Palmer (USC, 2002) and Eli Manning (Mississippi, 2003).
In addition to honoring a player with the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, the Frank Camp Chapter of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation has awarded more than $500,000 in scholarships to deserving scholar athletes from area high schools. The foundation also honors participants in six local youth leagues.
The Transamerica Insurance and Investment Group, a leading provider of innovative business and personal financial services, is a major corporate sponsor for the award and organization as well as Southwest Airlines, the official airline for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation; and WAVE3, the official Kentucky Derby station. Insight Communications, the eighth-largest cable operator in the United States serving Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio, is an active sponsor and will televise the event on a delayed basis.
The namesake of the award has a storied history which has earned him the recognition of being the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL.
An 18-year veteran of the NFL, Unitas played his collegiate career at the University of Louisville (1951-54), passing for 3,007 yards and 27 touchdowns. Unitas, who wore number 19 as a professional, had his No. 16 collegiate uniform retired at Louisville, the lone number retired by the Cardinals.
He began his 18-year pro career with the Baltimore Colts in 1956 and played there until joining the San Diego Chargers for his final season. His career passing figures are mind boggling. He completed 2,830 of 5,186 passes for 40,239 yards and 290 touchdowns during his 18-year NFL career. Among his many records is one that may stand forever: throwing a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games.
Unitas was recently selected as the top quarterback of all-time by the Pro Football Hall of Fame 36-member selection committee. In commemorating the NFL's 25th, 50th and 75th anniversaries, he was also honored as the greatest quarterback of all time. A Pro Bowl participant 10 times and a three-time Most Valuable Player honoree, Unitas was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1979. In turn of the century listings, Unitas was featured among Sports Illustrated's top ten athletes, Time's ten most influential athletes and in ESPN's series on the 50 greatest athletes of the century.