Joe Theismann

Former NFL star, College Hall of Famer and University of Notre Dame Standout Joe Theismann Named Walter Camp Foundation's "Distinguished American"

Jan. 22, 2014

Former University of Notre Dame and Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann is the 2013 recipient of the Walter Camp Football Foundation “Distinguished American” Award.

Theismann, as well as other major award winners, and members of the 2013 Walter Camp All-America team, were honored at the organization’s 47th annual national awards banquet earlier this month at the Yale University Commons in New Haven, Conn.

The Walter Camp “Distinguished American” award is presented each year to an individual who has utilized his or her talents to attain great success in business, private life or public service and who may have accomplished that which no other has done. He or she may have a record of dedication to mankind that should not pass unrecognized and a life that has been dedicated to the preservation of the American ideal. The recipient need not have participated in football but must be one who understands its lesson of self-denial, cooperation and teamwork, and one who is a person of honesty, integrity and dedication. He or she must be a leader, an innovator, even a pioneer, who has reached a degree of excellence that distinguishes him or her from contemporaries, as well as someone who lives within the principles of Walter Camp.

Past recipients of the Walter Camp Distinguished American honor include nationally-respected sportscasters Pat Summerall (2004) and Keith Jackson (1995), former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (1994), world-renowned entertainer Bob Hope (1985), former college coach Eddie Robinson (1982) and last year’s recipient, former Nebraska coach and athletic director Tom Osborne.

Theismann became the fourth honoree with Notre Dame connections–following Four Horseman Jim Crowley (the inaugural winner in 1978), former University president Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., in 1993 and all-purpose television personality Regis Philbin in 2002.

“We are honored to recognize one of the finest quarterbacks of his era,” Foundation president James Monico said. “Joe Theismann’s passion, integrity and commitment to excellence have allowed him to be a tremendous ambassador for the sport of football.”

Born and raised in South River, N.J., Theismann was a three-sport standout at South River High School. He attended the University of Notre Dame. As a three-year starting quarterback, Theismann led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3-2 record and threw for 4,411 career yards and 31 touchdowns. He led Notre Dame to two Cotton Bowl appearances and those 4,411 passing yards still rank eighth in school history. His 526 passing yards against USC in 1970 remain a Notre Dame single-game record.

He was selected in the fourth round of the 1971 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins and in the 39th round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Minnesota Twins. He elected to sign with the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League and played three seasons and earned All-Star honors twice.

In 1974, the Washington Redskins obtained his rights and by 1978 Theismann became the team’s starting quarterback. In 1982, he led the Redskins to Super Bowl XVII where they defeated the Miami Dolphins, 27-17. The following year, the Redskins made it to the Super Bowl again as Theismann earned the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

A two-time All-Pro honoree and Pro Bowl selection, Theismann played 12 years in the NFL, including 163 consecutive games and holds Redskins records for passing yardage (25,206), completions (2,044) and attempts (3,602). His playing career came to an unfortunate ending in 1985 after a badly-broken leg during a game versus the New York Giants.

Off the field, Theismann earned the NFL Man of the Year award in 1982 for his community service and dedication to the health and welfare of children. He was inducted into the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association Hall of Fame (1997) and College Football Hall of Fame (2003).

Theismann has been a football broadcaster and analyst for ESPN, NBC, and currently, the NFL Network. He is a sought-after motivational speaker and also owns a restaurant in the Washington, D.C., area.

Walter Camp, “The Father of American football,” first selected an All-America team in 1889. Camp–a former Yale University athlete and football coach–is also credited with developing play from scrimmage, set plays, the numerical assessment of goals and tries and the restriction of play to 11 men per side. The Walter Camp Football Foundation–a New Haven-based all-volunteer group–was founded in 1967 to perpetuate the ideals of Camp and to continue the tradition of selecting annually an All-America team and honoring deserving individuals.

Walter Camp Foundation Distinguished American Recipients
2013 – Joe Theismann, Notre Dame
2012 – Tom Osborne, Hastings College/University of Nebraska
2011 – Floyd Little, Syracuse University
2010 – Chuck Bednarik, Pennsylvania
2009 – Robin Roberts, Southeastern Louisiana
2008 – Len Dawson, Purdue
2007 – Frank Broyles, Georgia Tech
2006 – Dick Vermeil, San Jose State
2005 – Arthur Blank, Babson
2004 – Pat Summerall, Arkansas
2003 – Bill Walsh, San Jose State
2002 – Regis Philbin, Notre Dame
2001 – New York City Police, Fire, and Emergency Medical Service Personnel
2000 – Gene Upshaw, Texas A&I
1999 – Bo Schembechler, Miami (Ohio)
1998 – Steve Young, Brigham Young
1997 – Steve Largent, Tulsa
1996 – Dick Ebersol, Yale
1995 – Keith Jackson, Washington State
1994 – Paul Tagliabue, Georgetown
1993 – Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Notre Dame
1992 – Carm Cozza, Miami (Ohio)/Yale
1991 – Alexander Kroll, Rutgers
1990 – Tex Schramm, Texas
1989 – Richard Kazmaier, Princeton
1989 – Burt Reynolds, Florida State
1988 – Y.A. Tittle, Louisiana State
1987 – Weeb Ewbank, Miami (Ohio)
1986 – Tom Landry, Texas
1985 – Bob Hope
1984 – Maj. Gen. Bill Carpenter, Army
1983 – Tom Harmon, Michigan
1982 – Eddie Robinson, Grambling State
1981 – Harold “Red” Grange, Illinois
1980 – Alexander Haig, Army
1980 – George Halas, Illinois
1979 – David “Sonny” Werblin, Rutgers
1978 – James Crowley, Notre Dame

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