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Football: Former QB Theismann honored with O’Brien Award

Dan Murphy | Monday, October 6, 2008

Former Irish quarterback Joe Theismann added another award to his trophy case last week when he was named the 2008 Davey O’Brien Legends Award recipient.

The award, which was started in 2001, is given to a quarterback who has made major contributions to the game on and off the field each year.

“It’s very special,” Theismann said. “You really look at the company and the people that have received this before make it a really great honor. Those are some very special individuals to be grouped with.”

Former Navy and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach was the first to receive the honor in 2001. He was followed by legendary names such as Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw and Archie Manning. Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung was also on the list of recipients despite spending most of his career as a halfback.

Theismann played for the Irish in the late 1960s and was runner-up for the 1970 Heisman Trophy Award – not too shabby for someone who started his career listed at 6-foot-1, 147 pounds.

“That was fun. I was the little guy who just managed to stay around and hang on,” he said.

Notre Dame recruited 13 quarterbacks that season, but Theismann said his size may have actually helped him.

“Back then, they just recruited the best athletes they could, most were quarterbacks and got moved to other positions. I wasn’t tall enough to be a receiver or big enough to go on defense so I just stuck around,” he said.

Theismann also played varsity baseball for the Irish. He was drafted by both the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and MLB’s Minnesota Twins in 1971. Theismann chose to pass on both options and went north to play in the now-defunct Canadian Football League.

“I ran into some negotiation problems with the Dolphins. The negotiations really screwed everything up for me,” Theismann said. “I have very few regrets, but certainly playing for Don Shula would have been great.”

Theismann eventually found a home with the Washington Redskins where he played until perhaps the most famous leg injury of all time ended his career in 1985.

The quarterback went on to help ESPN with their coverage of the NFL for several years before retiring at the end of the 2006 season. Theismann now spends his time playing as much golf as he can while working as a motivational speaker for various groups.

“It’s a great opportunity to be able to affect people’s lives. Every organization that I get to be around I get to learn something new so it’s an educational experience,” Theismann said.

The Davey O’Brien Foundation will officially honor him in Forth Worth, Texas, on Feb. 16.