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Football great Joe Theismann conveys uplifting Message at YMCA inspiration breakfast in Boca

By Dale King

World champion National Football League quarterback Joe Theismann has celebrated the joys of victory and endured the agony of defeat. He came out of it mentally stronger, more specific in his approach to life and successful in changing his attitude, methodology and career.

He told the audience at the YMCA of South Palm Beach County’s 18th Annual Inspiration Breakfast and fundraiser March 4 that he had become “selfish and all full of myself” by the mid-1980s after 12 years as the record-setting quarterback for the Washington Redskin, including leading the D.C.-based team to a pair of Super Bowls, beating the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII and losing the following year.

“Life’s about taking chances,” the keynote speaker told the crowd gathered at the Office Depot Global Headquarters in Boca Raton. “You have to make yourself uncomfortable. The day you stop learning is the day you stop living.”

Theismann’s grid career ended Nov. 18, 1985 when he suffered a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula in his right leg while being sacked by New York Giants’ linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson during a “Monday Night Football” game being broadcast on ABC.

“The pain was unbelievable, it snapped like a breadstick,” he told the Y audience. “It sounded like two muzzled gunshots off my left shoulder.” 

At this point in his address, he began to reflect on his horrific recollection. “The 55,000 people in the stands gave this selfish man who thought he needed absolutely no one a chance to see that you need other people in your lives. Like you need the YMCA.”

After leaving football at age 36, Theismann worked as a sportscaster and an analyst on pro football broadcasts with ESPN for nearly 20 years. Since 2011, he has been part of the Redskins preseason television broadcast team. 

The Y’s annual inspiration breakfast raises funds to support scholarships for youth development programs, providing everyone, regardless of income, with the ability to participate in YMCA programs. 

The speaker gave his support to the Y’s efforts by signing 15 footballs that were presented to donors who contributed to the organization’s cause during a solicitation during the event. By means of table challenges and matching donations, the Y raised $287,785 just following the breakfast.

Theismann talked about the importance of the Y, at one point walking among several placards on the stage and talking about how the Y stands for various values and principals.  “At the Y, you see your dollars at work,” he noted, and he admonished those who contributed: “Don’t let this be the only day you give.”

The ex-quarterback owns Theismann’s Restaurant and Bar in Alexandria, Va., and speaks at various corporate events, addressing topics such as leadership and self-motivation.

Among others who spoke, Alex Price, chairman of the inspiration breakfast and national director of community investment for Office Depot, called the YMCA “one of the highest impact nonprofits on the planet.”

Price and Jason Hagensick, president and CEO of the YMCA of South Palm Beach County, thanked sponsors for their support. 

At the breakfast, YMCA preschool children led the Pledge of Allegiance and Christopher Mugavero sang the National Anthem.

The YMCA of South Palm Beach County is comprised of The Peter Blum Family YMCA of Boca Raton, the DeVos-Blum Family YMCA of Boynton Beach and the YMCA@901 NCCI. For more information, visit

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