How could The Sun produce a historical list of the most outstanding athletes in Maryland's history and not include Tom Matte? I don't even want to guess.
One of the criteria was that the player had to have lived in Maryland for three years. Tom Matte has maintained his home in Maryland ever since he first joined the Colts in 1961 — a total of 51 years — when he first was a running back behind Lenny Moore. A professional football team in those days had only 38 players, which meant that each player had to be versatile and able to fill in at any spot. The Colts selected Mr. Matte after he had starred at Ohio State before he graduated.
In 1965 when John Unitas developed a bad knee and his backup Gary Cuozzo had a shoulder separation, the team chose Tom Matte to fill in since he was the only Colt left who had ever played quarterback.
Because of his versatility, Tom Matte was selected by the National Football League as one of the 10 most versatile players of all time in the NFL. He was No. 10.
Tom Matte is included among the Gridiron Greats, honored by the Boy Scouts because he had been an Eagle Scout, and also received the Presidential award for his quarterbacking from President Richard Nixon.
He was the first player in a Super Bowl to run 100 yards, to record a 58-yard run, and to carry a ball 11 times for an average gain of 10.5 yards in a single game.
And there are other honors he has been given. Certainly, he not only qualifies as one of Maryland's greatest, but perhaps should be included in the small niche of John Unitas, Cal Ripken, Brooks Robinson, Andy Nelson, Artie Donovan, Jim Palmer, etc.
In 1972 when both he and John Unitas were traded to San Diego, Tom Matte did not leave Maryland. He still lives here.
Helen Delich Bentley, TimoniumCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times