If you are a long time Redskin’s fan, have seen the recent movie Blindside or have been to the restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia bearing the name “Theismann's”, then you most likely know of whom I was privileged to speak with the other day. Known for having the NFL’s “Most Shocking Moment in History”, Joe Theismann has accomplished and conquered many goals and obstacles in his life. From an amazing football career which included a single tackle that ended it, to owning a restaurant and working for NFL.TV and hosting his own Sunday morning sports show in the DC area, Joe Theismann is definitely someone to be admired and respected. Below is a selection of questions from my phone interview with Joe Theismann.
Ashley: What was your favorite sport to play in high school?
Theismann: My Favorite sport was actually baseball. I grew up doing it before I played football. I started playing organized baseball before I was 7 years old and I aspired to become a professional Baseball player.
Ashley: What were your top choices for colleges to play football?
Theismann: I had 5 that I narrowed it down to. Penn State, UNC, NC State, Wakeforest. I originally signed at University of North Carolina. It has always been a great mystery to me as to why I chose that school. But then I took a trip to Notre Dame and I can't really give you a specific reason other then I felt like that’s where I belonged. It was a gloomy Indiana day when I went to visit to the school but it just felt right...so that’s where I decided to go.
Ashley: Why did you decide to turn down a major league baseball offer to pursue a career in the Canadian Football League?
Theismann: In baseball you have A, AA, AAA ball and all the different graduating grades of being able to play at the professional level. Where as, in football you are either in or you are out. I felt that if things didn’t work out in a year or so, I could fall back on baseball but you cant go the other way around. But it turned out football was ok and worked for me.
Ashley: How did the CFL prepare you to play for the Redskins?
Theismann: It allowed me to continue to work on my physical skills. The games are a little different; In Canada you only have 3 downs and the field's bigger. Yet, I was still able to run and throw and think my way through football games and I think that helped me.
Ashley: Can you describe what it is like to play in a Superbowl game.
Theismann: It's indescribable. If anyone could just dream a dream, whatever it is, and all of the sudden the imagine that you dream is coming true, that’s what it feels like. I have wonderful memories from playing in the Superbowl.
Ashley: What do you feel is your greatest football accomplishment?
Theismann: Oh I would say winning the world championship. Its something you dream about as a kid. To be part of a world championship football team is very special. To be apart of any organization that is the best at what it does is very special. So that is my favorite football memory.
Ashley: Do you have a record you are most proud of?
Theismann: Yeah I played in 163 consecutive football games as a professional. I am a big believer in showing up for work no matter what. I say this to young people - if you go to school everyday, you will learn something. So, if you show up for work your going to learn something. If you are an athlete and you show up at practice, you will learn something new everyday.
Ashley: I’m sure you get asked this question all the time, but can you still remember and describe what happened the day that Lawrence Taylor sacked you and broke your leg.
Theismann: I remember it like it was yesterday. As a matter of fact, if you see the Blindside you can see it in the first few seconds of the movie.
Ashley: Have you seen the Blindside?
Theismann: Yes, it’s a great movie. They called me and told me they were going to use that clip and I had no problem with it. I have to tell you I couldn’t watch it, but I closed my eyes and listened to the audience reactions.
Ashley: Did you know at that point that your career would be over?
Theismann: No, not at all. I had broken a number of bones in my body. As a matter of fact, I had broken my right leg in 1972 when I was playing in the CFL. So for me, I thought it would be overcoming another injury.
Ashley: What is your relationship like with Lawrence Taylor now? Did you guys keep in touch after the injury?
Theismann: We are friends and we play golf together. We laugh about it. He always gives me a lot of grief saying, oh I wasn’t very good anyway and because of the insurance policy I owe him 10% because he made me a lot of money.
Ashley: How did you bounce back from the Injury that ended your football career?
Theismann: I just went back to my training as an athlete and dealt with the situation with perseverance. It was like when I went to the University of Notre Dame, I was 152 pounds and they told me I was too small. So when you get hurt you have people telling you that your career is over and you can't accomplish anything. I have always been a person who is very prideful. If you tell me I can’t do something, you are motivating me to do it.
Ashley: What made you want to open up a restaurant while you were playing in the NFL?
Theismann: Some guys came to me about putting my name on a restaurant. I thought about it and it seemed like a fun thing to do. I didn’t have an economic commitment to it. It was sort of neat having your name up on a sign. I would have my teammates come in and they could eat for free the first time but then had to pay for it. I used to go a lot but not so much anymore. Being involved in the restaurant business, really for me, was a great opportunity to learn about people and the world of business. It was a great lesson for me.
Ashley: What did you learn about the Restaurant industry?
Theismann: You learn how to buy, learn how to order food, about people showing up and not showing up to work, keeping a place clean. My whole motto with the restaurant is basically what we want to do is have a home for people. The cleanliness, quality of food, and the way people should be treated are all very important to the restaurant. Those are just some of the things you learn.
Ashley: What is your favorite item on the menu?
Theismann: I do, it’s the Spiral chicken. It’s a Spiral cream-based pasta with chunks of chicken in it. For the 27 odd years I have had the restaurant, the food consistency has been the same. That is actually what I am most proud of for my restaurant; the quality of the food has never changed.
Ashley: How did you get involved working at NFL TV? What is your job like there?
Theismann: They came to me and offered me an opportunity to be on the play book show. I had been out of professional football for three years and so it gave me a chance to get back into the game I loved. We talk about all the football games and the NFL. We break down the games and talk about the concepts and players. You know, football is a very complex game and you can take it a lot deeper then people just doing television.
Ashley: Do you have advice for future football players trying to go to the NFL?
Theismann: Yeah, get your education because it’s a game that requires a lot of intellect. Also, understand your responsibility to society. You’re going to be a role model and treat people like you want to be treated. Respect the game and respect the people that play the game and respect the people that are involved in the game. And finally, there is absolutely no substitute for hard work.
Ashley: Do you have advice for people trying to break into media, especially sports?
Theismann: If you want to get involved in broadcasting, the important thing to do is really find a job with a local television channel. Learn what it's like behind the camera and in front of the camera. Truthfully, if your school offers courses in broadcast journalism, I would advise that. Also, take speaking courses because even though we are in a world of texting and emails, if your going into broadcasting, you still have to open your mouth and something has to come out.
Ashley: Do you have any future plans or goals?
Theismann: Oh yeah, I think life is all about goals. I would like to help more people enjoy their life. I would like to be able to spend time with my grandchildren and I would like to be able to put a smile on someone’s face at least everyday.