LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Twenty-two outstanding senior quarterbacks have been selected as the top candidates 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.
Included among the elite list of candidates for the award are: Brett Basanez (Northwestern), Josh Betts (Miami, Ohio), Kellen Clemens (Oregon), Brodie Croyle (Alabama), Jay Cutler (Vanderbilt), Jay Davis (North Carolina State), Brett Elliott (Linfield College), Bruce Gradowski (Toledo), Darrell Hackney (UAB), Marques Halans (Virginia), Justin Holland (Colorado State), Joel Klatt (Colorado), Matt Leinart (USC), Travis Lulay (Montana State), Reggie McNeal (Texas A & M), Drew Olson (UCLA), Paul Pinegar (Fresno State), Quinton Porter (Boston College), Michael Robinson (Penn State), D.J. Shockley (Georgia), Brad Smith (Missouri), and Charlie Whitehurst (Clemson). Additional candidates could be added at a later date if their performance dictates inclusion.
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 committee will choose five finalists plus any ties and announce the list on Oct. 19.
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), Payton 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.
Brett BasanezNorthwestern247-460 passes, 2,838 yds., 12 TDs
Josh BettsMiami (Ohio)267-442 passes, 3,495 yds., 23 TDs
Kellen ClemensOregon223-372 passes, 2,548 yds., 22 TDs
Brodie CroyleAlabama44-66 passes, 534 yds., 6 TDs
Jay CutlerVanderbilt147-241 passes, 1,844 yds., 10 TDs
Jay DavisNorth Carolina St.175-313 passes, 2,104 yds., 12 TDs
Brett ElliottLinfield College290-437 passes, 4,595 yds., 61 TDs
Bruce GradkowskiToledo280-399 passes, 3,518 yds., 27 TDs
Darrell HackneyUAB197-358 passes, 3,070 yds., 26 TDs
Marques HalansVirginia164-261 passes, 2,024 yds., 9 TDs
Justin HollandColorado State121-197 passes, 1,622 yds., 6 TDs
Joel KlattColorado192-334 passes, 2,065 yds., 9 TDs
Matt LeinartUSC269-412 passes, 3,322 yds., 33 TDs
Travis LulayMontana State269-490 passes, 3,485 yds., 15 TDs
Reggie McNealTexas A & M200-344 passes, 2,791 yds., 14 TDs
Drew OlsonUCLA196-341 passes, 2,565 yds., 20 TDs
Paul PinegarFresno State173-292 passes, 2,099 yds., 23 TDs
Quinton PorterBoston College*140-250 passes, 1,764 yds., 14 TDs
* 2003 statistics; redshirted in 2004
Michael RobinsonPenn State14-39 passes, 170 yds., 1 TDs
D.J. ShockleyGeorgia26-60 passes, 464 yds., 4 TDs
Brad SmithMissouri191-369 passes, 2,185 yds., 17 TDs
Charlie WhitehurstClemson177-349 passes, 2,067 yds., 7 TDs
Note: All candidates must be completing their college eligibility this season to be eligible for The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Candidates are judged upon citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities and athletic accomplishments.