Unitas’ total earnings from his 18 seasons in the NFL (1956-1973) are unclear – but he did earn $7,000 in his first season and earned his way up to a $250,000 salary during his final season. The 1979 Pro Football Hall of Famer made national headlines when he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991.
He bounced from one ill-fated venture to another – which included a bad choice of real estate investments, a chain of bowling alleys, a prime-rib restaurant that closed immediately and a freight company that went under, according to the Baltimore Sun. Unitas went bankrupt after he and two partners borrowed $3.5 million to buy National Circuits Inc. They thought they were buying into the future, but the business struggled to no end. The bank filed attachments on Unitas’ checking and savings accounts and a lien on the Baltimore County home owned by Unitas and his wife, according to the Washington Post.
Unitas couldn’t pay back his debt before his unfortunate death in 2002, so Maryland taxpayers ended up paying much of the bill, according to Bleacher Report.