Cochran grew up in Six Mile, S.C., where the sporting passions typically center on Clemson University and the Atlanta pro teams. He has been a minister at Woodbrook Baptist Church in Towson since 1988, and it's no surprise that he found a home inside the Beltway, since he showed an early affinity for Baltimore.

"My brother and I collected cards like all kids, and I always tried to get the Orioles and Colts," Cochran said. "I got a No. 19 Colts jersey at Sam Wyche's sporting goods store in Seneca. We lived in a small town, and our midget football team didn't really issue equipment. My dad was an engineer and moonlighted on the side as a sign-painter. He took my white helmet and painted blue horseshoes on it. This was about 1970 or '71.

"I don't have the helmet anymore, and I wish I had held on to it. I saw John Unitas one time, at a restaurant on York Road. He came in to eat as we were leaving. I was either too scared to approach him or didn't want to bother him."

Surprised coach
Dave Dolch
Dolch's last season as the quarterback at Northeast High was 1972, Unitas' final year in Baltimore. A decade later, his coaching career got a boost from Unitas, whom Dolch had met through Jim Hindman, his coach and mentor at Western Maryland College. This year, their paths crossed one more time as Dolch prepared for his newest assignment, as the varsity coach at St. Paul's.

"In 1982, John and Morgan State coach Clarence Thomas came to Queen Anne's High on the Eastern Shore and spent an entire day with our football team, a fantastic gesture that the people there still remember," Dolch said. "This summer, I was pulled out of a classroom and handed a phone. The man on the other end said, 'My father said my son needs to play for you.' I had no idea who it was. It was John Unitas Jr. The oldest grandchild, John Constantine Unitas III, is one of the quarterbacks on our JV."

Perplexed wife and son
Barbara and Bill Emrich
As Barbara Emrich prepared shrimp creole for Sunday dinner at her home in Arnold on Dec. 28, 1958, she tried to keep her husband happy, but William S. Emrich got mad every time she tried to freshen his drink or fill the snack bowl.

Said her son, Bill Emrich: "I was 9 years old, watching the '58 championship game against the Giants with my father as he went crazy. He noticed that every time my mother ventured downstairs, something would go wrong for the Colts, and every time she went back to the kitchen, they would score or go downfield. My mother never saw the end of the game and sat at the top of the stairs, even through overtime. A few years later, Eddie Graefe, the pro at her golf club, told her not leave after her round. John Unitas was going to be playing there that afternoon. She met him and followed his foursome around the course."

Hall of Famer
Lem Barney
There were no black quarterbacks in the NFL in the early 1960s, when one of the best athletes in Gulfport, Miss., wanted to grow up and become John Unitas. Barney was moved to the secondary when he played at Jackson State, and he crossed paths with one of his heroes in November 1967, when the rookie and the rest of the Detroit Lions were whipped, 41-7, at blustery Memorial Stadium.

Barney had quickly stamped himself as one of the most versatile players in pro football. He returned a Lou Michaels field-goal try deep into Colts territory, but one of his own punts traveled 18 yards into a gale-force wind. Barney notched 10 of his 56 interceptions that season, but only Dick LeBeau picked off Unitas that day. The Colts moved the ball on the ground, and Barney didn't allow fellow Jackson State alum Willie Richardson a touchdown pass Ñ until after Unitas exited and reserve Jim Ward beat him.

"You prepared for John as best you could," Barney said. "He was the man, a great icon to everyone, including African-American kids."

Busy mother
Claudia Grimm
Molly Grimm is a senior at Garrison Forest School. She doesn't remember being in the hands of Baltimore's most famous baby sitter in the mid-1980s, but her mother, Claudia, does.

"My son Russ and John's son Chad were born the same year," Claudia Grimm said. "I came to know John's wife, Sandy, out at Hillendale Country Club, where we would sit around the baby pool and watch the boys. When I was pregnant with Molly, I asked John and Sandy to be the godparents. Molly was three weeks old when Sandy said I needed a break and offered to watch her.