Joe Theismann talks Notre Dame football

South Bend Tribune

Grandfather, motivational speaker, golfer, author and broadcaster are among the myriad hats former Notre Dame quarterback Joe Theismann now dons.

Mother Nature has added even more to a big plate that already had a lot on it.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of storms,” said the 64-year-old Theismann, who has a home in Memphis and a ranch in Virginia. “I’ve been a tree surgeon for goodness knows how long.”

He’s been a close observer of the Irish football program for even longer.

During a summer in which he’s toggling between writing two books (one a coffee table book, the other a motivational book in which he touches on how he ended up at Notre Dame), speaking, preparing for preseason broadcasts of Washington Redskins games, getting ready for a golf tournament and spoiling his five grandchildren, Theismann shared his thoughts on a number of ND-related topics, most notably the position he excelled at in South Bend and with the Washington Redskins.

On the challenge Everett Golson faces returning to the field after missing last season because of an academic suspension: “I don’t really see it as an issue, because first of all it’s not like he didn’t know what’s going on as far as the program goes. It’s not like he doesn’t know the offense. It will just be a question of getting back on the bike and starting to ride again from a learning standpoint.”

On how he sees Golson being received by his teammates: “As far as the locker room goes, you come in, you can play football, you can help us win, therefore we like you. That’s the way it is.”

On how Golson and the university handled Golson’s fall-semester suspension: “He paid a price. He was in a national championship game as a freshman quarterback, he made a mistake the next year and wound up paying a price. I think it’s great for both him and the university that the university took a stand that academics is important. That’s what we’re going do. We emphasize academics, that’s the way we want to be at the university. If you have a problem with academics then you’re not going to be eligible to play football. We’re not gonna make an exception. So that speaks to the integrity of the university. The fact that he wanted to come back and just didn’t say, ‘Oh I’m going to go someplace else, somebody else will take me,’ I think speaks to the character of the young man.”

On the importance of two quarterbacks, Golson and sophomore Malik Zaire, fighting for playing time: “First of all it’s great for the team. You have two guys and when they step out on the practice field you’re going to have to get their best or else they’re not going to have a job. I felt like last year, we really didn’t have an option to go to but for Tommy (Rees) when it came to throwing the football. I thought we were a little bit short in that area. Now you’ve got some guys who can really get it done. Anytime you know that there’s somebody out there that wants your job, if you don’t raise your level, then you don’t deserve to have it anyway.”

On speaking at Notre Dame’s pep rally on South Beach prior to the BCS National Championship Game, in which the crowd was estimated at up to 40,000 people: “It was exhilarating to be around that kind of atmosphere to get ready for a national championship game. I do a lot of motivational speaking, and when you get up in front of a crowd, it’s an exciting time. When you get up in front of the fans of the University of Notre Dame in preparation for a national championship game, you know why rock groups can perform every night because you just go on adrenaline. It’s such a great rush to be able to get up and talk about something you love so much, as much as I love the university, to talk about the football program, to talk about the great job that Brian Kelly has done.”

On new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, who came to ND from the New York Jets: “He’s a heck of a defensive coordinator. VanGorder is a really smart, bright defensive coordinator. And if you think of the time that he spent with Rex Ryan, you just get the feeling that with the growth of our corners, and the secondary play, that it’s going to be more of a pressure-style defense. There’s such a limited time when it comes to college football from a preparation standpoint, and if you throw enough blitzes at people, you throw enough pressure packages at people, they’re not going to be able to handle it.”

On how the program has developed NFL talent: “If you just look at last year and this particular NFL Draft, what you want to look at is in two ways and two different perspectives. First of all I think Brian has done a terrific job in developing players. I look at the freshman classes that have come in and I look at the guys who graduate as seniors and you see their growth as people, their growth as athletes and graduating with their degrees. So you know that you’re developing good football players when the NFL recognizes their talent.”

On preparing for the Lake Tahoe American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, which he plays every year: “It’s my major.”

On the overall job Kelly has done in his five years at ND: “I think he’s done a fabulous job, adapting his style of play, getting his type of players there. I looked at Brian, there was a little bit of talk that he was possibly coming out and getting into professional football. I never thought that was going to happen. I think he feels like his job isn’t anywhere near complete at the university, that there’s national championships to be got.”


Twitter: @BobWienekeNDI

Former Notre Dame quarterback Joe Theismann speaks during a pep rally before the 2013 BCS National Championship Game. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)
South Bend Tribune/JAMES BROSHER Fans react as former Notre Dame player Joe Theismann greets them before the start of the Notre Dame pep rally on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, at South Beach in Miami.