Aug. 19, 2004
An All-American and Academic All-American as a quarterback at the University of Notre Dame, Joe Theismann was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 14. Here is the text of Theismann’s induction speech. “I do want to thank you very much for attending this evening and supporting the College Football Hall of Fame. All of us that sit here on this dais in front of you are very honored to have represented the universities throughout America. We not only represent the universities, we now become pillars for them to move forward with. When you look at the men who have played football for their respective colleges, every one of us loved every moment of it. When I think of college football, I think of it in a purer sense. In college football, you played because you loved the game. You played because the coach told you that you had to play. You didn’t ask him why. You didn’t ask him why not. You simply said `Yes, sir’ and went on. I have the opportunity to play at what I believe is the greatest university in the world. If you were to ask every one of the men seated with me, they would say the same thing. That is why they share this evening with me as inductees and enshrinees into the College Football Hall of Fame. Because every one, coach and player, has distinguished themselves, not just as athletes, but as men who represent what they believe are the highest of principles. I am a very lucky and blessed man. I have had a lot of wonderful things happen in my life. I have my Mom and Dad here with me tonight. I will never forget when I came back and got off the plane from the University of Notre Dame and my Dad said to me, `Son, what do you think?’ I said `Dad, I have to go to Notre Dame.’ He said `Why?’ I said, `I don’t know. But I know I belong there. It felt comfortable, it felt like home.’ So yes, I do believe in divine intervention. When my Dad worked and wasn’t available, my Mom would go out and throw the ball around with me. She would be a receiver and she had really good hands. I also get a chance to share this evening with my wife’s parents, Bill and Peggy Smith. Family has become so important to all of us in our lives and it seems to become one of those principles that is seeping away. When we go back to our roots, it is the family that is important. Not necessarily in the tradition sense anymore, but how you define family. Is it the university? It is your Grandmother, or your Grandfather? Your Mom, your Dad, your Aunt, your Uncle. What I have found now as I move through life is that sharing things in life is important. We here on stage share this evening the experience of being enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame. I have also found that I could share a life and give more than I could ever believe and I thank my wife Robin for that. Why Notre Dame? Why not North Carolina State University where I initially signed? Because Notre Dame represents everything that I think is so important in collegiate sports. Our women’s teams today are special. Our football team will be special. I look back on my days at the University and I never thought about being a Hall of Famer. I never thought about being a professional football player. Every one of us here, whether it be coach, whether it be player, enjoyed the experience of the college life. Harold Davis doesn’t even know this but when I was in Pop Warner, I wore number 15. I guess now I know it was to honor him. To listen to Ricky Bell, who said when he ran, he ran in such a way that he never knew what he was doing. Ara Parseghian felt that same way about me so often as I played for him at the University of Notre Dame. Every one of us is humbled by this experience. We are honored to be on the stage where so many have come before us and have done so much and we are grateful to have this evening to share with you. To the National Football Foundation, to the selection committee, to my fellow enshrinees, I am honored to stand here as a part of this class of 2004.” Theismann induction information (courtesy of the College Football Hall of Fame): When first seeing 5-10, 147 pound Joe Theismann, one of Notre Dame’s assistant coaches remarked that he was looking at the team’s new water boy rather than a quarterback. As a sophomore, he became the team’s starter late in the season after Terry Hanratty was lost to an injury. In three games, he led the Irish to two wins and a tie. In 1969, he led the Irish to a number five ranking, their first bowl appearance, and a near upset of national champion Texas. The next year, the Irish had a 10-1 record, a number two ranking and a revenge win over top-ranked Texas. Theismann was the runner-up in the Heisman voting and was recognized as a first-team All-America and as an Academic All-America. As a starting quarterback, he compiled a 20-3-2 record while throwing for 4,411 yards and 31 touchdowns. Joe set school records for passing yards in a game (526), yards in a season (2,429), and touchdowns in a season (16). Theismann had a 15-year professional career, 12 of which were spent with the Washington Redskins. In 1982, he led the Redskins to a Super Bowl victory. The next year he became the league’s MVP. Upon retirement, he became a successful businessman and sports caster.