A steady stream of autograph seekers filed past the celebrities in the Towson State University student union yesterday, offering photographs, cards and elaborate montages for their signatures.
For $5, a fan could secure the autographs of four current or former professional athletes at one of three two-hour sessions that will benefit the Tiger Club, the school's athletic fund-raising arm.
For the athletes, it was an opportunity to give to a worthy cause.
"This is the least I could do," said Dave Meggett of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. "I had no problem at all coming here."
Meggett, a Towson State football hero, was one of 12 celebrities who donated their time to an event that may raise as much as $20,000 for all the university athletic programs.
"Towson State is a school that has done a lot for sports locally," said former Baltimore Oriole Ken Singleton. "I felt to give up a couple of hours was not too hard to do on a Saturday afternoon. I don't do these too often, but for this it was worth it."
Mike Jessup, a member of the Tiger Club board of directors, supervised the autograph sessions and accompanying memorabilia show, for which a $2 admission fee was charged.
"I think this day has met our expectations and gone beyond," he said. "The celebrities donating their time was a big key. These guys usually get paid for this."
In addition to Meggett, Singleton, Unitas and Collins, the lineup included ex-Tiger Sean Landeta of the Giants, former Colts Jim Parker, Rick Volk and Andy Nelson, ex-Orioles Ron Hansen, Mark Belanger and Tippy Martinez, Paul Hoffman of the old Baltimore Bullets and Towson athletic director Bill Hunter, another former Oriole.
"Most good shows take six months to put together. We did this in three. For the limited time, it couldn't have turned out better," said Jessup, who said the goal of $10,000 will be surpassed easily.
The recent focus at Towson State has been on the threat to continuation of football, which received a reprieve two months ago when the University Senate allowed a recommendation for suspension to be withdrawn.
Meggett said he wore "TSU paraphernalia" on his shoe and wristband and used it on his towel when he first heard of the possibility.
"I was shocked when that came up. It caught me by surprise to think they were even considering dropping the program," he said. "But at that time, there was nothing I could do but support them mentally."
He was in the middle of the National Football League season and en route to a Super Bowl ring.
"Now, I can do something."
"It was an unbelieveable thought not to have football here, Landetta said. "I wondered if that was true, how could it have gotten to that point.
"But as a result of things like this today, the program should b saved. This was a good turnout and I spent a good two hours."
Said Singleton: "Sometimes people wait until the last minute to get behind something. Maybe things should have been done here before, but it's not too late. If we save football now, they can make it better in the future."
The Tiger Club also has initiated a program whereby Orioles Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer sign autographs on a mail-order basis.