Western Pa. home to Hall of Fame QBs

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It was a gathering that never happened before, one that came about because of a shared bond that never can be broken, a bond that goes back to their roots in Western Pennsylvania.

Western Pennsylvania is home to some of the best ever to play in the National Football League. And when it comes to quarterbacks, nothing can compare to the group that emerged from the area.

Western Pennsylvania's six Hall of Fame QBs are honored at Gridiron Gold.

Of the 23 quarterbacks currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an amazing six of them have their roots right in Western Pa. - 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.).

On Saturday night, for the first time ever, the six were honored as a group at Gridiron Gold at the Wyndham Grand Hotel.

"Without a doubt it's the work ethic our parents instilled in us," said Kelly of why Western Pa. is such a hotbed for quarterbacks. "There is no doubt our parents instilled that work ethic in us.

"When I was a kid, I was Terry Bradshaw when I was playing offense in my backyard. When I was on defense I was Jack Ham and Jack Lambert."

Four of the six players attended - Kelly, Marino, Montana and Namath - while John Unitas, Jr. and family members of George Blanda represented the two deceased players.

"We have some great stories that get better every time we tell them," said Montana. "We have never been together. It would have been great if we all could have been here together, but this is special."

Steelers' President Art Rooney II served as the honorary chairman for the event, which benefited Neighborhood Legal Services Association, and was instrumental in bringing the group to Pittsburgh.

"It's great. When Art Rooney called me about doing this I thought it was a great idea,' said Marino. "Pittsburgh is my home. I love coming back here. It's special. There are so many great players from this area. I was always a Steelers fan growing up, watching the Steelers of the 70s."

Rooney, who said he enjoyed watching the quarterbacks when he was growing up, was pleased to see it all come together.

"It's a great night for Western Pennsylvania," said Rooney. "It's long overdue to honor these guys, the greatest group of quarterbacks from any part of the country. It's a great place for football. A lot of great football players have come from Western Pennsylvania down the years."

A sold out crowd, that included greats like Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Ronnie Lott and Roger Craig, showed up to honor the quarterbacks, something that meant a lot to the group.

"I get goose bumps thinking about it. It's a great honor," said Namath. "It's our people. The people that were ahead of us, our work ethic. When we are talking about the six quarterbacks from Western Pennsylvania in the Hall we didn't do it by ourselves. It's in our blood, the hard working ethic and the appreciation for others."

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