By AMAYA HENRY Staff Writer “The day you stop learning is the day you stop living” - Joe Theismann
On Thursday February 25th, former NFL and CFL quarterback Joe Theismann sat down with Emmy-winning TV host, Rita Cosby to discuss Theismann’s life and career.
The Zoom interview was part of the Global Service Institute’s Virtual Speaker Series, highlighting it’s leadership program, which Theismann and Cosby are both a part of. Agreeing with the Global Service Institute, Theismann’s objective is to, “... share my experiences with people and have them look at their life and see if it makes sense for them. Maybe save them from some of the pitfalls that I went through.” Theismann discussed key lessons that he learned about leadership, along with the challenges that he faced both on and off the field.
The interview began with discussing Theismann’s childhood. He explained that both his parents played active roles in his life and provided him with a visual of what hard work was. His father, Joseph John Theismann, worked at a gas-station six days a week along with working at his brother’s liquor store. Even though this left him extremely exhausted, he would still find time on Sunday to throw the football with Joe. This showed Joe at an early age a key quality that a leader should have: going the extra mile even when you don’t have to.
While Theismann has become a respected leader, he admitted that he was not always this way. In his early adulthood, he described himself as “self-consumed” since at the time he believed it was “all about him.”
In order to change that, he emphasized that he had to ask himself some important questions like:
“But can you grow and learn from it?”
“Can you look in a mirror honestly and have a candid conversation with that person?”
He reminded the audience that the key is to be able to hold yourself accountable for your own actions. In order to be an effective leader, Theismann asserted that one must examine their own selves and goals.
Another aspect that Theismann highlighted was the importance of education. Since he himself was inducted into the CoSida (College Sports Information Directors of America) Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 1990, he stated, “Too many times young people (you) look at their physical gifts… Whatever physical gift the good Lord has granted you, you look at the physical gift: throw, run, jump, beauty, whatever it might be… That can all go away, but what you put in between your ears, the education that you get, no one can take away from you. And that ultimately will allow you to be able to move forward in your life.”
Theismann also touched on the moment that changed his life forever. It was during a Monday Night Football game on November 18, 1985, where he suffered a comminuted compound fracture of his tibia and fibula in his right leg that ended his career.
The harsh reality of the situation hit him about three weeks after his injury. When he returned to the locker room he saw that his locker had been emptied into a singular box and he was being replaced by the Atlanta Falcons quarterback, Steve Bartkowski. This made him realize that, “You are very replaceable. And that’s why you have to work as hard as you can to keep the position that you have. Do the things that you need to do.” He affirmed that you have to make the best of every moment because you never know when it could all be over.
This injury did not stop Theismann however. He took his skills to a new level and became an NFL sports analyst, going on to win two Emmys for his sports journalistic work. He broadcasted for 23 years and has been a motivational speaker for over four years. Theismann also became involved in the movie industry as he starred in B.J. and the Bear (1981), Cannonball Run II (1984), and the Man from Left Field (1993).
Giving back to the community was the final point that Theismann touched on. Giving back has always been a part of his life dating back to 1974 with his daughter, Amy Lynn Theismann, who had an atrial septal defect in her heart. Seeing her in the children’s hospital changed his life and made him realize how blessed he was that he had the resources to get his daughter treatment. He realized that he wanted to give others that same opportunity.
Theismann made the powerful assertion that, “When you reach a certain point in life the way you define success is not by what you have, but what you can do for others.”
From a young man with humble beginnings to a Super Bowl Champion, Joe Theismann exemplifies the definition of a hard-worker.