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Catching Up With ... former Colt Alex Sandusky

Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter 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 ... "

He is 77, the last surviving offensive lineman from the Baltimore Colts’ halcyon days of the 1950s. Half a century ago, guard Alex Sandusky made a living carving out daylight for runners named Lenny and L.G. and The Horse, and rebuffing assaults on a slope-shouldered young quarterback who’d won the hearts of Colts fans.

It was Sandusky’s job to safeguard John Unitas, which he did for more than a decade.

"You took pride in protecting John. Everyone was focused on that," said Sandusky, a Colt from 1954 through 1966. "Unitas was our bread-and-butter. When he called plays in the huddle, it was like a priest talking in church."

1966 Baltimore Sun file photo

And woe be the lineman who missed a crucial block during the game.

"It was almost a mortal sin to get beat by your man, if he then got to John," Sandusky said.

"I remember several games when (Unitas) played hurt and we made sure that he never got his knees dirty. We took immense pride in that."

Crew-cut and rock-ribbed, Sandusky played 13 years in Baltimore, during which he missed one game injured. In 1962, he suffered two busted shoulders but kept on playing.

"I didn’t learn they’d been broken until after I retired," said Sandusky, who was an All-Pro.

He called it quits in 1965, but was asked back by owner Carroll Rosenbloom, who loved Sandusky’s work ethic. Colts’ opponents said they would rather the 33-year-old had stayed home.

"Sandusky gives me more trouble than any other guard in the league," groused Alex Karras, Detroit’s All-Pro tackle. "He’s short and quick and he has great agility."

Sandusky’s secret?

"Balance, technique and a little holding when the ref’s not looking," he said.

That, and the fact that he bashed heads daily with two future Hall of Famers on defense.

"Practice regularly against Art Donovan and Gino Marchetti and you either learn how to do it or you get killed," he said.

After football, Sandusky – an avid fisherman – became director of Waterway Improvement for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. For 24 years, he helped build launching ramps and marinas throughout the state.

Sandusky now lives in Key West, Fla., in a home overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. He has a wife of 55 years, four children, five grandchildren and a 26-foot fishing boat that he keeps in the canal behind the house.

It’s hardly the rigorous lifestyle that greeted him on his arrival at training camp in Westminster in 1954.

"We were packed, six to a room, in the hot attic of a dorm," said Sandusky, a 16th round draft pick from Clarion State Teachers College (Pa.).

"There were no air conditioners or fans. We slept on Army cots, with Army blankets. And practice was so tough you thought you were training for the Marine Corps.

"But you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. Going to the pros and having the career I had in a town where a horse ran around on the field and the fans were the best – it’s like winning the lottery."

Lower image first appeared in The Sun on Oct. 23, 1959.

Comments

Mike, Thanks for the great read about a great Colt. It's good to hear that Alex and family are doing well.

One thing that stood out in what you wrote was him practicing each week lined up against the likes of Gino and Artie. Sunday's game probably seemed almost easy compared to that! (LOL)

Thanks for all the great memories, Alex, and for bringing those championships to Baltimore!

Another great Colt ...He played the game the way it was suppossed to be played ..Thanks for this update .

I've never understood why Alex wasn't in the Hall of Fame? He was definitely one of our best, perhaps overshadowed by such a great team, but one of the best.

Thanks for the great read about a trully great Baltimore Colt. Last surviving 50's Colt lineman. Time has pasted us by. Glad I was around. He and his mates left us with a lifetime of thrills and wonderful wonderful memories. Us old timers are still proud and happy to have been lucky enough to haved been a fans of the very special Baltimore Colts.

I was watching sports with Jerry Sandusky and got the urge to google the 58 Colts to see how his dad, Alex, was doing. Thanks for the great update and the trip down memory lane. Like many Baltimore Colt fans, football in this town left forever when the Colts left, but the memories are dear and irreplaceable. What a great time to be a Colts fan.

What a life its been my friend from college to old age and your still my BEST MAN. I LOVE YOU BUDDY< RICK

A.V. Sandusky is not Jerry's Father. Alex and Mary Sandusky had four children; Vince, Mike, Steve, and Connie. Connie is a PhD. A very fine family.

Agree with Ted that Alex should be in The Hall, along with Mike Curtis. When Colts played Detroit I spent a lot of time focusing my binoculars on Alex vs Alex. Great battles. Alex Karras held our Alex in the highest regard and thinks he was
one of the best he ever played against

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