Nov. 21, 2013
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Former Notre Dame quarterback Joe Theismann is the 2013 recipient of the Walter Camp Foundation’s “Distinguished American” award, the New Haven-based organization announced on Thursday.
Theismann will be the fourth recipient connected the Notre Dame to receive this prize, the most of any school. Seven schools have had two recipients each. The 2002 award went to Regis Philbin, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C. was the 1993 recipient while the inaugural winner in 1978 was Jim Crowley.
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.
“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 yards and 31 touchdowns. He led Notre Dame to two Cotton Bowl appearances and his .840 winning percentage ranks fifth in school history. His 526 passing yards against USC on Nov. 28, 1970 remains a school 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 induced 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 DC area.
Theismann, as well as other major award winners, and members of the 2013 Walter Camp All-America team, will be honored at the organization’s 47th annual national awards banquet on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at the Yale University Commons in New Haven.
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 eleven 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.