Indianapolis Colts hand out Unitas’ #19 to rookie wide receiver

Have you ever heard of Kole Heckendorf?  Don’t worry, neither have most people.  Heckendorf is a wide receiver on the Colts roster who has bounced around in his two years in the NFL.  He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Packers, but has worn jerseys for the Lions, Seahawks and Chargers before landing with the 0-5 Colts this season.

What does any of this have to do with Baltimore sports?  Heckendorf has been handed the illustrious number 19 jersey worn by Baltimore Colt great Johnny Unitas.

It’s been no secret that the Irsays have not cared about the tradition of football in Baltimore.  When the team moved out, the colors, logos and history went with them to Indianapolis.

However, for nearly every professional sports franchise, numbers of Hall of Fame players (especially those that help put the entire league on the map) are retired out of respect.  Unfortunately, it seems that the late Unitas has not been given that luxury.

Maybe it’s because Unitas asked for his Hall of Fame display to be removed unless it could belong to the Baltimore Colts or maybe the franchise doesn’t think it’s a big deal to have Unitas’ jersey worn if he never played in that city.  Either way both Baltimore and whatever city calls themselves the Colts should have the decency to give Unitas the respect he deserves and keep the number retired.

Zach Wilt is the Founding Editor of BaltimoreSportsReport.com and host of the BSR Podcast. He's a loyal Orioles, Ravens and Capitals fan who is obsessed with baseball, loves traveling, In-N-Out Burger and Walt Disney World.

16 Comments

  1. MGW

    October 13, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    If Drunken Bob Irsay and his idiot son Jim wanted to separate themselves from the Baltimore Colts history, they should have changed the team name and logo when they skipped town in 1984. Also, the NFL should have stepped in and ensured the name remained in Baltimore. This is the latest slap at the Baltimore Colts fabled history. Jimmy Irsay should be ashamed of himself.

  2. BaltimoreColtsFan

    October 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    The NFL dropped the ball on Baltimore Colts name, logo, colors, legacy, etc. when the Irsays were allowed to sneak the team to Indianapolis in March 1984, without any league resistance. The current NFL owes much of it’s success to the franchise which brought a “minor” professional league into a national fan base from the Greatest Game Ever Played (1958)during the infancy of televised games. The Baltimore Colts was the original “America’s Team” with the play of Marchetti,Donovan, Moore, Berry, and of course, Unitas continuing into the early 1960′s. Since the Indianapolis version of the Colts began play, the NFL has barely recognized recognized the “real” Colts existance. The NFL still controls the Baltimore Colts licensing rights. If you’re a Baltimore Colts fan, good luck in trying to locate any current memberbalia, jersey, T-shirt, etc….it’s almost non- existant. The NFL’s revenuers would rather appease the Irsays and squash any reminder of the Baltimore Colts existance, than capitalize on the cult/fan status the Baltimore Colts still enjoy. If a NFL team moves, colors, uniforms, legacy should remain in the original city. I am a Baltimore Ravens fan, but I will always love the Baltimore Colts. Let that team owned by the family who ran the franchise into the ground, and held Baltimore hostage, do what they want. Johnny U. and the real Colts…the team with real class. Burn in Hell Robert Irsay.

    • MGW

      October 13, 2011 at 7:36 pm

      Nice. Thanks BaltimoreColtsFan. I was/am a big fan of the Baltimore Colts myself. Although I root for the Ravens, it’s just not the same.

  3. Tom

    October 13, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Please visit http://www.colts.com and find the name of this wide receiver you speak of. The name isn’t on the roster or on the practice squad.

  4. HorseFeathers

    October 13, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Sorry about the Peyton Manning injury but I just wonder if it was a karma related thing when the Irsays decided 19 was just another number football number.

    Would be nice if the Colts never won another game until respect was given Unitas’ number and memory.

    • spy

      October 14, 2011 at 9:38 am

      I agree totally,,,,,,,,,and they don’t like what Art Modell did with the old Browns , he handled his move the right way and left those stinky colors in Cleveland and gets criticized all over the place and the NFL embraced the Indy Colts,,,,,,,,,it still makes me mad just thinking about those terrible Mayflower vans………………Go Ravens……..

  5. Naptown's Finest

    October 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    You would think that after 27 years the fans in Baltimore would mature enough to get past this. You whiny babies, get over it! You have a team so support them and leave Indy alone.

  6. Pole

    October 14, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Got to agree with you Naptown’s Finest, Baltimore does have some of the whiniest people. They always feel like the league is after them or some sinister plan is afoot.

  7. MGW

    October 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    I smell an Iowa rat. Naptown writes 10 minutes before Pole?!? Me thinks they be the same Iowian.

    • spy

      October 15, 2011 at 10:32 am

      Who would do such a thing ?

  8. Kate

    October 15, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Whoever wrote this article did not do their research.
    Johnny Unitas’ number IS retired!!! just check this website!
    http://www.nflteamhistory.com/retired_numbers.html
    Kole Heckendorf was on the roster during training camp but he was waived once he was injured and is no longer on the team, please feel free to check the colts site.
    He never had #19 he had #13, I was at training and had a roster.
    Oh but what do i know…I’m just an Indiana hick…

  9. The Intimidator

    October 15, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    @Kate – You know, my first instinct when I saw what you wrote was to berate the shit out of you… but then I realized I would rather listen to the squealing of every fat, lazy woman who’s ever won a new refrigerator on the “Price is Right” then read your mindless dribble…

  10. Kate

    October 15, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    @intimidator – Wow! Apparently you don’t know to play nice and since when were facts “mindless dribble”?

  11. Gene

    October 19, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Just when you think the Indianapolis Colt organization couldn’t get any lower, they do at a remarkable scale. But when you think about they’re keen on drafting Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker from DUI and DWI, I guess nothing is beneath them.