Joe Theismann
Joe-Theismann-SB XVII Autographed.jpg
QB Joe Theismann leads the Washington Redskins past the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII.
Personal Information
Jersey #(s)
Born: September 9 1949 (1949-09-09) (age 71) in New Brunswick, New Jersey
Birthplace: {{{birthplace}}}
Career information
Year(s) 19711985
NFL Draft 1971 / Round: 4 / Pick: 99
(by the Miami Dolphins)
NFL Supplemental Draft / Pick:
College Notre Dame
Professional teams
Career stats
Pass attempts-Completions-Comp Pct.(%) 3,602 Att/2,044 Comp/56.7
TD-INT 160 TDs-138 INTs
Passing Yards-QB Rating 25,206-77.4 Rating
Stats at
Stats at
Stats at
Career highlights and awards

Joseph Robert "Joe ("The Thighmaster")" Theismann (born September 9, 1949) is a former quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) and Canadian Football League (CFL). He achieved his most enduring fame in his 12 seasons playing for the Washington Redskins, where he was a two-time Pro Bowler and quarterback of the winning team in Super Bowl XVII. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

Following his retirement from football, Theismann began a career as a sportscaster. He now works for the NFL Network, as a color analyst on Thursday Night Football, joining play-by-play voice Bob Papa and Matt Millen. He also co-hosts the network's weekly show Playbook.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Theismann was born to Austrian Joseph John Theismann who "ran a gas station and worked in his brother’s liquor store."[1] His Hungarian mother, Olga Tobias, worked for Johnson & Johnson until her retirement. Theismann was raised in South River, New Jersey, and attended South River High School, where he lettered in baseball, basketball, and football.

Theismann was inducted into the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1997.

Theismann was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 39th round of the 1971 Major League Baseball Draft.

College career[edit | edit source]

Theismann attended and played college football for the University of Notre Dame. He became the starter as a sophomore, after Terry Hanratty was injured late in the season.[2] In the three remaining games in the regular season, he led the Irish to two wins and a tie. In 1969, Theismann led the Irish to a number five ranking, but lost to the University of Texas in the 1970 Cotton Bowl Classic, 21–17. The next year, the Irish had a 10–1 record, a number two ranking, and won against Texas in the 1971 Cotton Bowl Classic, 24–11.[2] That year, Theismann was an All-American and an Academic All-America, and was in contention for the Heisman Trophy. Notre Dame publicity man Roger Valdiserri insisted that he change the pronunciation of his name to rhyme with "Heisman", Theismann recounted later, but he finished second to Jim Plunkett of Stanford University.

Theismann set school records for passing yards in a season (2,429) and touchdowns in a season (16).[2] He also set a school record for passing yards in a game (526) and completions in a game (33) while playing against the University of Southern California in a torrential downpour in 1970, which they lost 38–28.[3] As a starting quarterback, Theismann compiled a 20–3–2 record while throwing for 4,411 yards and 31 touchdowns.[2] His 4,411 passing yards is fifth on Notre Dame's career passing list.[3]

Theismann was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.[2] He was the eighth Notre Dame quarterback enshrined into the hall, joining former Heisman Trophy winners Angelo Bertelli, John Lujack, and Paul Hornung.[3]

Professional career[edit | edit source]

Canadian Football League[edit | edit source]

Theismann was selected in the fourth round of the 1971 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins and in the 39th round of the 1971 Major League Baseball Draft by the Minnesota Twins.[4] After prolonged negotiations with the Dolphins failed, Theismann elected to sign with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League for $50,000 per season.[5] In his rookie year, Theismann quarterbacked the Argonauts to a 10-4 record, led the league's Eastern Conference in passing statistics and won a berth in the 59th Grey Cup championship game in Vancouver, British Columbia versus the Calgary Stampeders. A fumble late in the fourth quarter by Argonaut running back Leon McQuay close to the goal line cost the Argonauts the Grey Cup.

In 1971, he completed 148 of 278 passes for 2,440 yards and 17 touchdowns (with 21 interceptions). His 1972 season was shortened by injury, but he hit 77 of 127 passes for 1,157 yards and ten touchdowns. During his last season, 1973, 157 of his 274 passes were complete, for 2,496 yards and both 13 touchdowns and interceptions. He was an all-star in both 1971 and 1973.

National Football League[edit | edit source]


Theismann at practice

In 1974, the National Football League's Washington Redskins obtained Theismann's rights. Theismann left the CFL and joined the Redskins, where he served as the team's punt returner during his first season.[6] In 1978, Theismann became the Redskins' starting quarterback, succeeding Billy Kilmer.

Theismann led the Redskins to a win in Super Bowl XVII and an appearance in Super Bowl XVIII and would go on to set several Redskins franchise records, including most career passing attempts (3,602), most career passing completions (2,044) and most career passing yards (25,206), while also throwing 160 touchdown passes, with 138 interceptions. On the ground, he rushed for 1,815 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was named NFL MVP in 1983 by four organizations.[6] He earned the Player of the Game Award in the second of his two Pro Bowl appearances. Theismann also punted once in his career, for one yard against the Chicago Bears.[6][7]


Joe Theismann's NFL rings (2006)

In an era when most quarterbacks had long since used variations of a double-bar facemask (or even triple-bar facemasks) that afforded more protection, Theismann refused to use anything but a one-bar facemask throughout his career.[8]

Injury[edit | edit source]

Theismann's career ended on November 18, 1985 when he suffered a comminuted compound fracture of his leg while being sacked by New York Giants linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson during a Monday Night Football game telecast. The injury was voted the NFL's "Most Shocking Moment in History" by viewers in an ESPN poll, and the tackle was dubbed "The Hit That No One Who Saw It Can Ever Forget" by The Washington Post.[9]

At the time, the Redskins had been attempting to run a "flea-flicker" play. The Giants' defense, however, was not fooled, and they tried to blitz Theismann. As Taylor pulled Theismann down, Taylor's knee came down and drove straight into Theismann's lower right leg, fracturing both the tibia and the fibula. Giants linebackers Gary Reasons and Harry Carson then joined Taylor in the sack.

"It was at that point, I also found out what a magnificent machine the human body is", Theismann said. "Almost immediately, from the knee down, all the feeling was gone in my right leg. The endorphins had kicked in, and I was not in pain."[9]

As Theismann lay on the field, a horrified Taylor frantically screamed and waved for emergency medical technicians. Initially, however, many Redskins personnel thought Taylor's screaming and pointing directed at their sidelines was a taunt over the fact that he had successfully stopped their play. Taylor has said that his animated behavior was largely a claustrophobic reaction to having been trapped at the bottom of the pile that followed his tackle.[10] The Monday Night Football announcer team (composed of Frank Gifford, O.J. Simpson and Joe Namath) inferred from the start that Taylor was calling for help.

While initially only the players on the field could see the extent of the damage to Theismann's leg, the reverse-angle instant replay provided a clearer view of what had actually happened—Theismann's lower leg bones were broken midway between his knee and his ankle, such that his leg from his foot to his mid-shin was lying flat against the ground while the upper part of his shin up to his knee was at a 45-degree angle to the lower part of his leg.

The compound fracture of the tibia led to insufficient bone growth during Theismann's recovery, leaving his right leg shorter than his left. As a result, the injury forced Theismann into retirement at the age of 36. Theismann has never blamed Lawrence Taylor for his injury. Taylor has said that he has never seen film of the play and never wants to.

This injury was highlighted in the film The Blind Side as the reason that, after the quarterback, one of the highest paid football players is the left tackle, who protects the quarterback's blind side.

Broadcasting career[edit | edit source]

In 1985, Theismann helped call Super Bowl XIX for ABC alongside Al Michaels and Frank Gifford, becoming only the second person to do commentary on a Super Bowl telecast while still an active player at the time (the first was Jack Kemp when he helped call Super Bowl II for CBS). Theismann served as a color commentator on regional CBS NFL coverage in 1986 and 1987, then worked on ESPN's Sunday Night Football telecasts from 1988 to 2005, and on their Monday Night Football coverage in 2006.

On March 26, 2007, ESPN announced that Ron Jaworski would replace Theismann in the Monday Night Football booth. Theismann rejected an offer to work on the network's college football coverage. He has since done a number of Washington Redskins pre-season games on CSN.

On September 16, 2009, the NFL Network announced that Theismann would analyze game films on the show Playbook, airing Thursday and Friday nights at 6 p.m. Eastern.

In addition to covering football, Theismann hosted the first half of the first season of American Gladiators in 1989.

Theismann worked with Joe Gibbs and Tom Hammond on the broadcasting crew for NBC's coverage of the early wild-card game between the New York Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals on January 9, 2010.[11]

On September 6, 2010, NFL network announced that they had added Theismann to their Thursday Night Football broadcast crew alongside Bob Papa and Matt Millen.[12] The three only announced one season (2010) together.

Personal[edit | edit source]

File:Joe Theismann.jpg

Theismann in 2003

He and his first wife Shari Brown Theismann divorced in 1984. They have three children, Joe, Amy, and Patrick, all now married. Theismann was in a relationship with actress/TV host Cathy Lee Crosby for seven years. His second marriage, to former Miss Connecticut and Miss America Contestant Jeanne Caruso, ended in divorce after three years.

Theismann is now married to Robin Theismann. They have homes in Virginia, Tennessee, and the Florida Panhandle.[1]

Theismann is the owner of Joe Theismann's Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, founded 1976.[13]

Theismann's son, Joseph W., pleaded guilty in 2002 to drug charges[14] of dealing cocaine and possessing drug paraphernalia. He received a ten-year suspended prison term, was placed on five years of probation and fined.[15]

From 2000-2003, he was a spokesperson for the Colonial Penn life insurance company.

On August 19, 2010, head coach Jay Gruden of the UFL's Florida Tuskers "confirmed that Theismann introduced himself to the Tuskers as the team's new part owner."[16] Theismann expressed disappointment at the way he was treated during his time in the league and left the team when it was folded into the Virginia Destroyers in January 2011.[17]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Harry Jaffe (2007-12-01). Joe Theismann Sounds Off. Washingtonian. Retrieved on 2008-12-26.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Theismann's College Football Hall of Fame profile. College Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved on 2008-12-26.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 AP (2004-08-12). Green, Sanders also among inductees. College Football. Retrieved on 2008-12-26.
  4. Baseball Draft: 39th Round of the 1971 June Draft. Retrieved on 2008-12-27.
  5. CFL Scrapbook.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Joe Theismann NFL & AFL Statistics. Pro Football Reference.
  7. UPI (September 30, 1985). Bears Show Redskins A Team On The Rise. Lodi News-Sentinel, p. 17.
  8. Graham, Tim (August 11, 2009). Face of the NFL is gone - an ode to the single-bar.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Leonard Shapiro. "The Hit That Changed a Career", The Washington Post, 2005-11-18. Retrieved on 2008-06-30. 
  10. Michael Lewis. The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. W. W. Norton, 2006.
  11. Michael Hiestand. "Gibbs, Theismann to reunite for NBC wild-card game", USA Today, 2009-12-06. Retrieved on 2009-12-08. 
  12. Gregg Rosenthal (September 6, 2010). "Joe Theismann to join NFL Network booth".
  13. Paul Attner (1976-10-29) Theismann Plans, but does not wait, for future Washington Post Milwaukee Journal via Google News Archive.
  14. AP (February 12, 2002). "Son of football great Joe Theismann faces cocaine charges".; Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2010-07-08.
  15. AP (January 15, 2003). Joe Theismann's Son Gets Drug Sentence Highbeam Research archive.
  16. Radcliffe, Jeff (August 19, 2010) Joe Theismann in talks to become part owner of Florida Tuskers. Retrieved 2010-08-19.
  17. Masters, Mark (2011-06-24). Unplugged: Theismann on the CFL, NFL and Marc Trestman. National Post. Retrieved 2011-06-25.

External links[edit | edit source]


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