Joe Theismann prowled the stage of York’s Strand Theatre Monday evening (August 15) as if he were still in his Washington Redskins uniform, not the pin stripe suit, the crisp white shirt, and purple and black tie he was wearing.
The former quarterback — who was earning $1 million a year “back when quarterbacks were worth $1 million,” as he puts it — was the speaker at a “Challenge of Change” program presented by Scott Wagner and Penn Waste, Inc. to more than 1,000 people in the by-invitation-only audience.
Theismann, handsome with a full head of hair and gracefully athletic as he nears his 62nd birthday, moved across the stage as he lobbed motivational messages from stage left; rifled sports stories from stage right; told humorous stories from front stage center; faded to the back and then rushed forward to make a dramatic point.
As the spotlight glistened off of the diamonds in his two NFL rings, he poked fun at himself saying the one time he punted the football in a Chicago Bears game he became the holder of the record for the shortest net gain by a punter in the NFL – 1 yard.
Again and again he returned to the day in November of 1985 when his world crumbled on a football field. One of the best known quarterbacks of his era was entangled with the New York Giants’ Lawrence Taylor. His leg was broken in two places and his football career at an end.
It is one of the most dramatic and re-played football injuries ever recorded, but Theismann says he has only seen it one time on film. As painful as that hit was, his face creases in a broad grin when he recalls that actress Sandra Bullock talks about him in the movie “The Blind Side.”
It was after that life-changing injury Theismann developed his motivational approach to embracing change and challenge.
He emphasizes leadership, character, team work (he says TEAM is an acronym for “Together Everyone Achieves More”), education, and communication. To illustrate communication and listening, he announces: “Johnny’s mother has three sons. One is named Nickel, another Dime.” He then asks, “What’s the third son’s name?” He moves from left to right repeating the statement and asking the question. The answers from the audience come back, “Quarter” or “Penny.” He again states: “Johnny’s mother has three sons. One is named Nickel, another Dime. What’s the third son’s name?” The answer: “Johnny.”
He was a communicator when he became a color commentator for various sports programs and he put his own motivational advice to work when he became an entrepreneur and opened his namesake restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia.
He ended the evening with a flourish, throwing two footballs in the audience to the winners of random drawings. He still has the arm.