Stadium. A sunny fall afternoon, 1969. Whack! Joe Theismann's first pass in the
first game of his junior year hits me in the chest. I'm playing right
cornerback for Northwestern and I stagger forward until I'm crushed by several
Notre Dame offensive linemen.
Lubbock, Texas. A hot summer night, 1971. The Coaches' All-America Game. I'm
playing strong safety for the East, and I back into the right-side curl area. I
raise my hands, catch a ball and run it into West territory. I've intercepted a
Jim Plunkett pass.
scrambling for an angle on the two Super Bowl quarterbacks, and some of the
angles are pretty loose, and maybe mine is, too. But hey, it's mine. And I'm
using it because I absolutely guarantee not another sports-writer in the world
has intercepted passes from the two starting quarterbacks of any Super Bowl, no
I mention this to
Plunkett the day after the Raiders beat Seattle for the AFC Championship, and
he shrugs. He's sitting outside the Raiders' locker room in the L.A. suburb of
El Segundo, wearing a T shirt promoting a Bay Area marathon he ran in last
year. The marathon nearly finished him. "I didn't recover for a month,"
he says. Why did he run? "Said I'd do it, so I did it," he snaps.
Honest, curt, no baloney. My interception means nothing to him. He doesn't
remember it, doesn't try to remember it. "One of many," he says.
Two days later,
Joe Theismann and I are taking the air shuttle from New York to Washington,
D.C. The Redskins had beaten San Francisco for the NFC title the previous
Sunday and now Theismann is returning from a banquet in Manhattan at which he
received the Professional Football Writers of America Most Valuable Player
Award for 1983.
links are gold numeral 7s, his jersey number. On his right hand he wears last
year's Super Bowl championship ring, a diamond-studded monster. If the Redskins
win the Super Bowl this year, Theismann says he'll definitely wear both rings
at the same time, "maybe on the same finger."
remember my interception, either. He was a gambler in college, always
scrambling, always trying for big plays. He had a high completion rate, but he
threw a lot of interceptions, too. He was so skinny then, and he always wore
eye-black on his cheeks (he still does) and he just reeked arrogance as he
crouched behind the center.
you in that game, didn't we?" says Theismann, grinning. Yes. The final
score was 35-10, Notre Dame. And that's it: Joe Theismann won, and the rest
It's Nov. 24,
1970, and the Heisman votes are in. Plunkett and Theismann are seniors and the
two top candidates for the award. Archie Manning of Ole Miss was up there with
them, but he broke his left arm two weeks ago and now he's a long shot.
Theismann thinks the voting resembles a political election. When he hears the
results he's devastated: Stanford's Plunkett, by a lot.