John Shearer: Joe Theismann Discusses Support For Washington, Notre Dame And Scouting While In Town

  • Wednesday, February 28, 2024
  • John Shearer
Joe Theismann at the Chattanooga Convention Center
Joe Theismann at the Chattanooga Convention Center
photo by John Shearer

Former Washington quarterback Joe Theismann has won a Super Bowl and was an Emmy Award-winning analyst for ESPN’s NFL broadcasts for several seasons after his retirement.

But another important honor for this 1970 Heisman Trophy runner-up while at Notre Dame was another finish just below first – receiving the Scouts’ Life award, which is the second highest honor below Eagle Scout. And it was that topic that brought out the most enthusiasm in him Wednesday while in Chattanooga.

“I made it all the way to Life,” he said. “My mom worked for the Boy Scouts of America, so Boy Scouting has always been a part of my life. So, I want to emphasize to everybody here how important their donations are and how important it is to make sure Scouting is supported in the Cherokee Area.

“If you look at television today and all the things going on with young people today, Scouting is a great place, a safe place to go to be able to learn, to be able to grow as a person and be able to learn important things that will give you a chance in life.”

Mr. Theismann’s comments came in an interview at the Chattanooga Convention Center prior to addressing an audience during the 20th Annual Friends of Scouting Luncheon to raise funds for the Cherokee Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

In the press availability session, Mr. Theismann politely and cordially chatted with several members of the media, including some individually, and touched on several other topics close to his heart. That included the Washington Commanders’ and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s football programs and his admitted disdain for the Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) rules that he said have changed college sports.

Regarding the latter, he went so far as to say that the new rules allowing players to get financial compensation and the looser transfer restrictions are destroying college football – and not just in its purest form.

“I have a real hard time, and I have wrestled with this, but if you are on a scholarship at a university – and at Notre Dame it is $70,000 a year – you get room, board, books, and tuition,” he said. “And you don’t have to pay taxes but you’re getting an education, and it is free other than participating in sports. If that is not compensation, I don’t know what is.

“I really feel like it has changed the landscape,” he continued. “We don’t have amateur sports anymore at the collegiate level. We have semi-professional football played by young, young people. They made a huge mistake doing it that way.”

He predicted – and certainly hopes – changes will be made in the next couple of years for the benefit of collegiate sports, pointing out that San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy currently makes less as a previously unheralded draftee than some college quarterbacks like Arch Manning of Texas do now.

Regarding Washington, which he led to two Super Bowl appearances in the 1980s when they were the Redskins but have struggled in recent years, he said he still pulls for them and hopes for better days ahead.

“The key is a quarterback,” he said. “You have to be able to have a quarterback, and the other side is the ability to be able to protect him with an offensive line.”

He added that a positive is that Washington is $90 million under the salary cap, so it should be able to spend some money to get free agent players at some of the desired positions, including linebacker.

While Mr. Theismann’s arm helped him lead Washington to numerous wins, he is most remembered for his leg during his time there. In 1985, his career ended after he suffered a broken leg on Monday Night Football after he was tackled by star defensive player Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants in a tough scene to watch.

“People ask me all the time about my leg,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m very blessed. I don’t have any hardware in it. It’s been about 40 years now. It’s a little shorter now. When I stand, I look like a cheap sailboat. I sort of list a little bit to the right, but it hasn’t affected my golf game. But then I’ll blame my leg on my golf game every now and then.”

Mr. Theismann is also hopeful about the football program of his college alma mater, Notre Dame, which finished 10-3 last year under second-year coach Marcus Freeman. Although the Fighting Irish have had some nationally competitive teams in recent years, they haven’t consistently been a top 5 program like when he was in school.

But he is high on coach Freeman and hopes the addition of former Duke quarterback Riley Leonard and former LSU offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock will create a more offensive and wide-open attack. He hopes that along with a good recruiting class will result in more success.

“We’ve been close,” he said.” I think Marcus has done a terrific job with our young players. I’m really excited about what the football team is going to be able to do.”

Another topic Mr. Theismann touched on during the interview, but one with which he is admittedly not as familiar as football and Scouting, is Chattanooga. He said this was the first time he has been here but liked what he had seen.

“I was in Nashville and drove here from Nashville and didn’t realize (Monteagle) Mountain was quite as tall as it is coming through the pass,” he said. “But it is just beautiful here. I walked around a little bit this morning.”

The 74-year-old Mr. Theismann added that he primarily focuses most of his time these days on making motivational talks like the one in Chattanooga – and playing golf. “I work hard on my golf game. I only wish the result would equal out to the time I put in, but it has always been that way,” he said with another laugh.

Local Scout Executive/CEO Jared Pickens said prior to the luncheon that he hoped the event and Mr. Theismann’s talk would inspire the area business and community leaders attending to continue supporting Scouting.

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Jcshearer2@comcast.net

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