West 31

East 30

 

January 14, 1962

 

By Jerry Wynn

Long Beach Press-Telegram

 

How do you spell hero? In the language of football, it is U-n-i-t-a-s!

 

Providing a breathless finish to the 12th Pro Bowl Game, Johnny Unitas threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jon Arnett with two seconds left and Jim Martin kicked the extra point to give the West a sensational 31-30 victory over the East before 57,409 fans at the Coliseum Sunday.

 

The peerless quarterback, of the Baltimore Colts was faced with a situation that called for all the courage, poise and skill that the game will ever demanded from one player.

 

Unitas was equal to it.

 

Trailing 30-24 with 1:32 remaining, the West took possession of the ball on the East 41 when linebacker Bill George tackled the ball from the snake-coiled grasp of East star fullback Jim Brown, and recovered the fumble himself.

 

Unitas sprang into action, knowing that his team had exhausted its supply of allotted time outs. With the second hand circling the huge peristyle clock in apparent tempo with the accelerating heart-beats of the spectators, he passed 15 yards to Mike Ditka and 14 more to Lenny Moore for a first down on the 12.

 

There were now but 15 seconds left. The clock had to be stopped, and Unitas knew how. He rifled a pass purposely incomplete.

 

There were now 10 seconds left, time probably for no more than one play. The East braced for what they knew must be a pass. It was.

 

Unitas took the snap from center and faded back to his right. He looked for a receiver, found none open and it was almost his last look. For crashing through the cordon of West blockers came veteran defensive end Andy Robustelli to grab him about the ankles.

 

But in some way that separates Unitas from other quarterbacks, he did not go down. He spun out of Robustelli's grasp, and took off for the open field to his left. Just at the instant it appeared he was going to attempt to run all the way, he spotted Arnett alone in the corner of the end zone and passed to him while, still on the run.

 

Arnett went down on his knees to cradle the suddenly precious pigskin for the winning touchdown.

 

A mighty roar went up and Unitas and Arnett were hugged by their jubilant teammates. Most of the players were "old pros" but the moment belonged to young victorious hearts. The game soon ended with Brown being gang-tackled on the kickoff.

 

''There is only one quarterback who could have made that play," observed Rams general manager Elroy Hirsch in the press box, "and you saw him. With all the pressure on him, he still had the poise to make the defender (linebacker Maxie Baughan) commit himself, come up for the run end leave Arnett alone."

 

Unitas was as modest and unassuming as ever while accepting congratulations in the West dressing quarters.

 

"I just twisted away from that tackle," he said of his brush with Robustelli. The play was intended for either Moore or Ditka on the other side. Arnett was a secondary receiver."

 

Arnett revealed that he went to his knees to make the catch because the ball was being thrown into the sun.

 

"It was in the worst part of the field because of glare from the sun. But luckily I caught a glimpse of the ball in the clear sky. If the pass was high, I would have never caught it."

 

The furor and drama packed into the final two minutes cast into oblivion many high moments of excitement and individual brilliance spread through the other 58.

 

Brown and quarterback Y.A. Tittle were stars for the East in a fourth quarter comeback of its own that erased a 24-16 deficit.

 

Tittle replaced Milt Plum midway through an 80 yard, 19 play touchdown drive at the start of the quarter. After a successful fake punt and run by Jerry Norton and lateral to Alex Webster had gained 15 yards for a first down on the West 35, veteran Y. A. took charge. He passed to Tommy MacDonald for 27 yards, and hit Webster from two yards out for the score.

 

Brown accounted for the' East's go-ahead 30-24 touchdown on a 70-yard run that came 9:40 into the final quarter, The beast of the Browns took a pitchout around right end, cut back, bolted over defender Night Train Lane and literally blew by three other West tacklers in a dash to the end zone and new Pro Bowl single run record.

 

Largely because of this flash of brilliance, Brown was voted “player of the game"-some three minutes before its conclusion and before Unitas showed just who was the true star of the stars. West tackle Henry Jordan of the Packers was chosen "lineman of the game."

 

The West had dominated play for most of the first three quarters on a day of blue skies that must have been an impressive backdrop for a nationally-televised color hookup.

 

The East opened the scoring early in the first quarter on a 33-yard field goal by Bobby Walston. The West went ahead, 7-3, on a 16-yard pass from Unitas to his favorite Baltimore target, Raymond Berry, who had caught 75 passes during the league season but none for touchdowns.

 

Less than two minutes later, the West had another touchdown and a 14-3 lead when Lane intercepted a Tittle pass and streaked 42 yards into the end zone. It was another Pro Bowl record.

 

The East scored its first touchdown at the start of the second quarter on a nine-yard pass from Tittle to Dick Bielski that capped a 76-yard advance. Martin's 27 yard field made it 17-10 in favor of the West at halftime.

 

Just 2:54 into the third quarter, the West went ahead, 24-10, on a 10-yard pass from Bart Starr to Hugh McElhenny that followed an interception of a Plum pass by West safetyman Yale Lary.

 

Plum quickly obtained revenge by commanding the East on an 80-yard touchdown drive keyed by passes of 35 yards to Webster and 21 to Don Perkins and climaxed by a 12-yard toss to Walston for the six points.

 

Walston's attempted kick for the extra-point was blocked by the combined charge of Jordan and Lane, and this one point denied turned put to be the margin of victory for the West and its king of quarterbacks, Johnny Unitas.

 

Note: Joe Schmidt, Detroit Lions linebacker, had his helmet wired to absorb the shock of tackles in conjunction with a study by Northwestern University. The safety study was considered quite remarkable in that day and the specially adapted helmet cost $5000.00.

 

Jon Arnett carries for the West. He scored game winning touchdown on the final play.

 

Jim Brown (32) is stopped after 16 yard gain in 4th quarter. John Unitas carries in second quarter as Bob Gain lunges for him.

 

Overshadowed by Unitas' heroics, Y.A. Tittle had a superb game for the East.

 

Jim Brown suited up for the Pro Bowl from 1962 magazine cover.

 

1961 1963

 

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