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Unitas' contract is on the block

John Unitas' rookie contract - the one that brought the Hall of Fame quarterback to Baltimore in 1956 - goes on the auction block this month.

The cream-colored contract, which Unitas signed with the Colts after his release by the Pittsburgh Steelers, was for $7,000 a year.

It is expected to bring nearly that much at auction Feb. 23-24, said David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions in Exton, Pa.

"It's hard to value this particular [memorabilia]," Hunt said. "Obviously, things like this don't come up that often."

The four-page contract, an original copy signed by Unitas and his mother on Jan. 31, 1956, is being sold by the family of the late Don Kellett, then the Colts' general manager who kept it in his files.

"From what [Kellett's family] related, clearly this football contract is something that he cherished," Hunt said.

Unitas was a 22-year-old free agent when he signed with Baltimore. He would play with the Colts for 17 years, leading them to NFL championships in 1958 and 1959 and a Super Bowl victory after the 1970 season.

He was the first quarterback to pass for 40,000 yards and once threw at least one touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games, still an NFL record.

Unitas died of a heart attack in 2002 at age 69.

Also up for grabs at the auction: a game helmet worn by Unitas, circa 1964. The two-bar headgear is white, with the trademark blue horseshoes on either side and the number 19 painted on the back.

Estimated value: $20,000-$30,000.

"That's typically what Unitas' helmets sell for," said Hunt, who knows of "at least five" such items that exist.

Both online and telephone bids will be accepted at the live auction, to be held in Exton. For information, go to www.huntauctions.com.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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