Western Pennsylvania has been a football hotbed for decades, not just because of the success of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it's also home to some of the best ever to play the game. And when it comes to quarterbacks, there is no breeding ground like Western Pennsylvania.
Of the 23 quarterbacks in the Professional Football Hall of Fame, an astounding six of them are from Western Pa. They are names any football fan knows, names that any defensive back through the years hates to hear – George Blanda (Youngwood, Pa.), Johnny Unitas (Pittsburgh), Joe Namath (Beaver Falls, Pa.), Joe Montana (New Eagle, Pa.), Dan Marino (Pittsburgh) and Jim Kelly (Pittsburgh/East Brady, Pa.).
They have been honored individually, from their Hall of Fame inductions, to hometown happenings, to ceremonies in the cities where they played. But for the first time ever they will be honored as a group when Pittsburgh plays host to Gridiron Gold on Saturday, June 6, 2015 at the Wyndham Grand Hotel.
Steelers' President Art Rooney II will serve as the honorary chairman for the event, which will benefit the Neighborhood Legal Services Association as well as the player's selected charities. Rooney reached out to the individuals and their families, and was pleasantly surprised how interested all were in taking part.
"Western Pennsylvania is known for being the home of some of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history," said Rooney during a press conference to announce the event at the Steelers' practice facility on Tuesday. "I can honestly say I grew up in high top black shoes because Johnny Unitas wore them. I know after that a lot of kids grew up wearing white shoes because Joe Namath wore them. It's exciting to have an event where we are going to be bringing some of the family members and individuals to honor what is a great Western Pennsylvania tradition."
Four of the six players will attend, including Kelly, Marino, Montana and Namath, while John Unitas, Jr. and family members of George Blanda will represent the two deceased players. Gridiron Gold will include a dinner, live and silent auction, highlights showcasing the player's careers and an armchair quarterback discussion among the players, sharing stories and memories.
"There is no doubt that this has been identified as a football town," said Rooney. "Western Pennsylvania has produced a lot of the great players in the National Football League down through the years. The unique thing is so many of the great quarterbacks have come from Western Pennsylvania. I think this will be a one-of-a-kind event where all six will be honored at the same time. I was always proud of the fact that although none of them played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they all came from Western Pennsylvania."
For more information, including ticket and sponsorship details, click on Gridiron Gold.
About Neighborhood Legal Services Association (NLSA): Neighborhood Legal Services Association (NLSA) was established in 1966 as a non-profit, public interest law firm to provide civil legal assistance to poor and vulnerable residents of Allegheny (and later) Beaver, Butler and Lawrence Counties. Staffed by highly qualified lawyers, deeply committed to the practice of poverty law, NLSA attorneys sacrifice higher salaries available to private practitioners and lawyers employed in the public sector in order to provide legal assistance to people who cannot afford a lawyer. All of the cases that NLSA handles have reached a crisis stage that threatens the fundamental safety and security of low-income individuals living in our community. NLSA is the major provider of free civil legal services to low-income, elderly, and abused individuals in our four-county service area. Over the past forty-five years, NLSA has provided civil legal services to over 1,000,000 low-income clients and victims of domestic violence who would otherwise have been denied access to the justice system.