The Lofton Files: Rewriting the Record Book

10/04/2012

This weekend against the San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees will more than likely throw a touchdown pass for a 48th consecutive game, breaking the mark set more than five decades ago by one of the all-time greats, Johnny Unitas. But don’t be sad, Baltimore Colts fans. It’s all part of the game.

Of all people, I know records are made to be broken. Let me tell you about how I felt when Jerry Rice surpassed my all-time NFL record for receiving yardage. I can still feel the moment. I was working for CNN on the NFL Preview show during the 1995 season. I remember standing in the Atlanta studio’s control room watching half a dozen NFL games on the various monitors. Rice caught a pass and the graphic came up on the screen. My 14,004 yards, which had taken me 16 years to accumulate, were now second best. As a competitor I admit I felt a little helpless knowing there was nothing I could do about it.

As it happens, on that particular weekend my oldest son David, who was 11 years old at the time, had joined me on the trip to Atlanta from our home in Dallas. As I stared at the screen, David put his arm around me and gave me a little hug. I looked down at him and tears were rolling down his face. In that moment, I realized how much records can mean to family and friends who support you no matter what and share in your triumphs.

I had the chance to meet Joe Unitas, Johnny’s son, this past off-season at an event for Jonathan Ogden, and when I did, I had to tell him that his dad was my idol as I was growing up. I don’t know why a kid growing up in the ’60s in Los Angeles would choose Johnny U as his favorite player, but I did. I loved the crew cut and the black high-tops #19 wore.

By the time my third season began, in 1980, I was on my way to becoming one of the better receivers in the NFL. Packers legend Bart Starr, the MVP of Super Bowls I and II, was my head coach in Green Bay and we were about to play a preseason game in Milwaukee. The annual Shriners Hospital game, in fact.

We were playing the Baltimore Colts that Saturday evening, and I was on the ground stretching when I heard Coach Starr say, with a laugh, “Can you believe this guy thought you were better than I was?” I turned around and saw Johhny Unitas standing next to Bart Starr. Suddenly I wasn’t a third-year Pro Bowler, but I was that 11-year-old kid again. I got up and shook Johnny U’s hand. Don’t know what I said or even remember if I could speak.

Now, back to the streak, the record 47 straight games from 1956 to 1960 in which “The Golden Arm” threw a touchdown pass. Incredible. Unitas was a guy who made the NFL from semi-pro ball and turned into a legend. I coached on the staff in San Diego when Drew Brees was our quarterback. Brees was a “too short” guy with a reconstructed shoulder, who has turned in the type of work while in New Orleans worthy of legendary status. He made the team sometimes mocked as the ‘Aints into Super Bowl champs and is on the verge of taking down one of the game’s oldest records.

If it happens, maybe Johnny Unitas’ son, Joe, will shed a tear on Sunday night just like my son David did back in ’95 when my record fell. It’s only natural for a son to be that proud of his dad, and one of the beautiful things about football and family and life, is that it’s something that Drew’s young son will likely experience one day too.

– James Lofton

James Lofton is the analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of Sunday Night Football. This week he and Dave Sims will be in New Orleans as the Saints host the San Diego Chargers. Coverage begins Sunday at 7:30 PM Eastern on Westwood One Sports.

James Lofton's Posts

SNF Highlights: Bears 28 – 49ers 20

09/15/2014
SANTA CLARA, CA - Trailing 20-7 entering the fourth quarter, the Chicago Bears rallied for three unanswered touchdowns to beat San Francisco 28-20 in the first regular season game at brand new Levi's...
0
Brandon Marshall

Player of the Week: Matt Ryan

09/09/2014
This week's AutoZone "In the Zone" Pro Football Player of the Week is Matt Ryan. The Atlanta quarterback was on fire in his team's 37-34 overtime win over New Orleans, completing 31 of 43 passes...
1
Matt ryan

MNF Highlights: Cardinals 18 – Chargers 17

09/09/2014
GLENDALE, AZ - Rookie wide receiver John Brown took a screen pass to the end zone for a go-ahead score with a little over two minutes to play on Monday night as the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San...
2
John Brown, Jonathan Dwyer

SNF Highlights: Broncos 31 – Colts 24

09/08/2014
DENVER - Peyton Manning and Julius Thomas connected on three second-quarter touchdowns as the Denver Broncos held on to defeat the Indianapolis Colts 31-24 on Sunday night. Manning was 22 of 36 on...
3
Julius Thomas

Postgame Interview: Malcolm Smith

02/04/2014
After the games, we talk to guys who get it done. When you want to get it done, turn to Grainger -- the one-stop shop for the ones who never stop. Grainger... for the ones who get it...
5
Grainger-Get-it-Done_640x300

Super Bowl XLVIII: Postgame Interviews

02/03/2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - After the Seattle Seahawks demolished the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, our sideline reporters Mark Malone and James Lofton got into the scrum on the field at MetLife...
6
Richard Sherman Postgame Intv

Super Bowl XLVIII Live Blog!

02/02/2014
10:45 PM ET: Here's the final call of the game. 9:39 PM ET: Less than nine minutes remain in Super Bowl XLVIII and all that's left now is to wind down the clock. Time to head to the sidelines...
7
Super Bowl 48 Logo and Teams

Super Bowl XLVIII Picks

02/02/2014
And so it has all come down to this. Super Bowl XLVIII is this afternoon and just like that, the NFL season will be in the books. It'll also mark the end of our analyst picks for...
Analyst Picks 2013

Super Bowl Interview: Denver DE Shaun Phillips

01/31/2014
The obvious storyline heading into Sunday's Super Bowl is the league's #1 defense (Seattle) against it's top-ranked offense (Denver). But guess what? The Broncos defense will take the field against...
8
Shaun Phillips

Super Bowl Interview: Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin

01/30/2014
Coming in to Super Bowl XLVIII, there's a whole lot of talk about the skills of one set of wide receivers - and it's not that of the Seattle Seahawks. That's nothing against Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate...
9
Doug Baldwin, Carlos Rogers

The Lofton Files: Who is The Greatest?

01/30/2014
It was February 1964, 50 years ago next month, when a 22-year-old Cassius Clay uttered the simple phrase that would become so iconic, “I am the Greatest,” before he stepped into the ring to...
The Lofton Files

 

Comments Closed

Comments are closed.