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Catching Up With ... Former Colt Marty Domres

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun reporter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ..." Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

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He didn’t have a crew-cut, wear high tops or walk with a funny, stoop-shouldered gait. Had Marty Domres looked the part, would it have mattered? Whoever replaced John Unitas as quarterback of the Baltimore Colts was sure to get booed.

The job fell to Domres, and when he took Unitas' place in 1972, the fans let him have it. No matter that Domres was a bright, articulate Ivy League grad who’d been a No. 1 draft pick. Unitas was their hardscrabble, free-agent, blue-collar icon.

Truth is, the two men hit it off swell. And while Domres only played three full years in Baltimore, he eventually settled here, stayed friends with Unitas and often played golf with him in retirement at Hillendale Country Club.

"I saw John at his house, not long before he passed away on Sept. 11, 2002," said Domres. "He was wearing a golf outfit, so I figured he was going out to play a round.

"John said, ‘No, knucklehead, I’m going to church, like I do every morning.’

"I said, ‘Say a prayer for me.’"

Unitas shook his head.

"I’d have to say a rosary for you," he told Domres.

Two days later, Unitas, 69, died of a heart attack. Domres attended the funeral.

"John was a great leader of men," he said. "I’d have loved to have had his career. That year we were together in ’72, I’d kid him about the way he sauntered onto the field, with that herky-jerky shuffle. I’d do it and he’d say, ‘Yeah, real funny, Mary.’"

The Colts were 1-4 that season when the 39-year-old Unitas was benched for Domres, whom the club had acquired from San Diego. Behind the Columbia grad, the team split its next six contests before hosting Buffalo in the home finale. It would be Unitas’ final game in Baltimore, though his chances of playing were slim.

"That game was the highlight of my career,” said Domres, who passed for three touchdowns and ran for another as the Colts rolled to a 28-7 lead. But on that last TD, Domres suffered an apparent hip pointer and limped off the field.


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The crowd smelled opportunity, thanks to Domres.

“They were shouting, ‘We want Unitas!’ and the chant grew as a plane flew over the stadium trailing a banner that read, ‘UNITAS WE STAND,’“ Domres said. “Coach John Sandusky met me at the sidelines and said, ‘Listen, I want to get John in the game, so go tell him that you can’t play.’

“I said, ‘If I tell (Unitas) that, he won’t believe me. You tell him.’ So Sandusky went to where John was sitting, 20 yards away, with his cape on and his legs crossed, and started talking. Then (Unitas) turned his head and looked toward me. I just pointed to my hip and shrugged my shoulders.”

At that point, said Domres, Unitas flipped off his cape and the fans went nuts.

“When the Colts got the ball back and John trotted onto the field, the crescendo was deafening,” Domres said. “He ran a couple of plays, then dropped back to pass and hit Eddie Hinton on a curl pattern. The ball fluttered a bit, but two defenders collided and Hinton went 63 yards for a touchdown. The noise? I can’t imagine any sporting event having that decibel level.

“When John trotted back off the field, all of us had tears in our eyes. I remember every second. It was an unbelievably moving experience and the most memorable event of my career.”

For his effort, Domres was named NFL Offensive Player of the Week. But he bowed to Unitas that day.

Now 62, Domres lives in Reisterstown with his wife, Cheryl, and works as a financial advisor with Deutsche Bank. Nine years in the pros left him in good shape, save the three broken noses he suffered with the Colts.

“I should be thinner, and have more hair, but I don’t,” he said. Domres still receives about 10 autograph requests each month and says he is “mystified” by the interest.

“It can only be because of my relationship with the Colts,” he said, “and the guy that I happened to follow.”

Comments

Even in his "Catching up with..." story Domres has to live in the shadow of Unitas. Domres' respect for Unitas and his own humility show in his last quote.

What a nice article: Domres comes off as a genuinely great guy.

Still to this day, seeing and hearing the name Marty Domres leaves me feeling queasy, as though I slid down a wormhole. In all honesty, he wasn't the worst quarterback in Baltimore Colts history; that would have to be Art Schlichter. So Mr. Domres works for Deutsche Bank. I'm curious if he had worked for Alex. Brown & Sons previously.

Yes, Marty did work for Alex. Brown before it became Deutsche Bank. He is bright, articulate and puts his clients first, conducting himself much the way I imagine he did as a player. It's nice to see someone who has enjoyed successful careers both on and off the field.

In addition to his athletic ability, Marty Domres DNA makeup includes the rare combination of smarts, honesty, humanity and humility described in this story and exhibited in his life daily.

Another very enjoyable article about the fabled Baltimore Colts. I think I was one of the fans "booing" Marty Domres! Marty, I’m sorry about that! Anyway, it seems the older that I get the more “fabled” the Colts of old become. Glad to see that Marty has landed on his feet and that he has a healthy, balanced perspective on the past. Keep those Toy Dept. articles coming.

Mke, Thanks for another terrific article about my favorite Baltimore Sports team. We didn't know it, but at the time Marty was a blessing to this city and all Colts fans. The respect he showed for Johnny belied the fact that he was forced upon the fans and the team. Though I didn't like him being forced down our throats, he will always be appreciated for the reverence and humility he displayed in taking over for our all time hero. For that he has earned a place in my heart as a loved and respected Baltimore Colt.

domres handled a tough situation
with class and dignity...

the colts mangement were a bunch
of inept tumbleweeds who treated
unitas very poorly at the end of
his career.....

unitas was tough, non-nonsense
and a winner... something the
colts organization once was......

their moving in the mayflower vans
only proved how cowardly and
dishonest they truly were......

Ten years ago, I left Ocean City for a Florida golf trip with 2 old friends and made a new friend, Marty Domres. You get to know someone when your with them 7/24 for four days. Marty is a 1st class, top-notch nice guy.

I was 11 yrs old and attended that last game in which Unitas played. I was just learning about the love affair between the fans and Unitas. Domres recounted the story perfectly. I didn't quite understand why all these adults sitting around me were crying when Unitas came in the game. But I quickly found out and relish that memory to this day.

wow! I know I am related to this man but I think he was my grandpas brother! I'm sad to hear he wasn't appreciated much on the colts though.

It is true that Marty was a true professional and one of the greatest of the 70's Colts. It wasn't mentioned that he was forced into another strange situation when the Colts drafted Bert Jones #1 the following year. Marty served as his mentor and had to hand over his starting spot.

Early in Bert Jones' career, Marty out played him and was in the middle of the controversial firing of Howard Schellenberger. He accepted that he wasn't the franchise QB and became an excellent backup. I will never forget the 1975 playoff game when he was brought in to replace an injured Bert Jones and almost pulled off the upset against the Steelers.

Again, he was in the middle of the firing and eventual re-hiring of Ted Marchibroda as Joe Thomas eventually received the can. Joe Thomas cut Marty and Mike Curtis that led to the players revolt. We needed a strong backup and missed Marty's experience. A guy named Bill Troup became the backup and it hurt us in 1978 when Bert Jones was injured. Marty will always be remembered as a class act.

Mike - I really enjoy these columns and hope you keep them coming. Maybe update us on Joe Ehrmann - maybe the most popular Colt of all.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Marty at a recent Columbia football Alumni Party in New York. I was a fullback for Columbia from '78-81, but was just a kid growing up in Buffalo in '72 and remember watching that now famous game in which Marty decimated the Bills! At Columbia he became an idol and filled me with hope that an Ivy League kid could make it to the NFL. It was nice to find out that he is a genuinely nice person! Marty is very humble and will always be a bigger than life hero to me!

Great story about a great guy. If I can add a postscript.....last Sunday my wife and I sat at a table at M&T Bank stadium at the Ranen's game when to men came up and asked if they could share the table. After they sat and we talked for a while one of the men said that he had been with the Colts for a few years. He had originnaly introduced himself as "Marty" and when we asked his last nqame he said "Domres". We then proceeded to talk some more and he told us stories about his Colt days (including the Unitas story in the article). He also talked about Donovan, Mutcheler, Irsay, and his own playing days. The conversation was so enjoyable we almost missed the kickoff.

All the words describing Marty in the story are right on point. He is as classy as described. We hope we see him at another game and, if so, our table will be always open.

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