One-on-one with Irish Legend Joe Theismann
Former Notre Dame quarterback Joe Theismann is not only an Irish legend but an NFL and multi-media legend as well. Like most other fans this season, he'll be watching the game from his home instead of from Notre Dame Stadium.
Theismann was an All American, a Heisman finalist and is in the Football Hall of Fame. He has won a Super Bowl and was named an NFL MVP.
Theismann spoke with ABC57's Allison Hayes about how the COVID-19 pandemic changed his plans this season.
"I miss so much about everything that happens on a Notre Dame weekend. I miss the pep rallies. I miss the drum circle. I miss going to Peter Schivarelli's room at the stadium. Peter and I went to school together back in the early 70s, late 60s and it's, there's so much about the University of Notre Dame that happens outside the stadium. A lot of people don't realize. I miss walking around through the tailgate. All of the energy, all of the excitement, all of the smells," Theismann said. "I usually try and make at least 3 games a year. This year, I'll be watching every one of them and hopefully, as things go on, maybe later in the year, I'll get a chance to get out to South Bend and see one."
"Looking at this football team I have to talk to you about some x's and o's here and you really achieved that elite level status, as a quarterback yourself, both here at Notre Dame and of course, at the NFL level. When you look at this matchup between quarterbacks with Ian Book and Chase Brice. Let's start off with Ian, he's having some early talks pre-season about maybe being in the Heisman hunt. What do you like about Ian Book, his development over the years and maybe, what are some things that you'd like to see him work on?" Allison said.
"I've communicated with Ian over the last 4 years. I think the world of him. I think he's gotten better and better at commanding the offense. Now, he's somewhat in a little bit of a different system with Tommy Rees calling plays. So it's always the offensive coordinator's mind that you try to get into and he had a chance to do it late last year when Tommy did the last game of the season and now through the entire off season, so it's not going to be that unfamiliar to him. I like the way he uses his improvisational skills. He breaks the pocket, but he just doesn't break the run. He tries to create plays with his legs and I like the way he operates out of the pocket. He runs a very fast offense and it's an up and down kind of thing. He, also, I think in the past, there's been a lot of balls being thrown. I think you'll have a much better balance this year. I think that's what Brian wants to shoot for and Tommy as well, which will take a little bit of pressure off of Ian. I feel like the one thing I'd like to see him get better at is throwing the ball down the field, the deep ball. I think that's something he does very well at times. But I would like to see a little bit more consistency out of his deep passing. But if you were to go through 20 items, that would be the only one that I think, he probably would want to improve and I'm sure did improve. I know he spent a lot of time in this off season, going to different places, working out with a lot of pro-quarterbacks, understanding more and more about the game. He has a great command of what's going on in the football field and that's something I always look for in a young quarterback. Are you aware of down and distance? Are you aware of where you are on the field? Do you not try to make that critical mistake when you're backed up? But you don't want to be hesitant in what you do and Ian does all of those things very well," Theismann said.
"I've always enjoyed watching him. How he's able to overcome adversity on the field. He might have a bad throw here and there, but he always seems like he's able to shake it off. I totally agree with you and I love the maturity that he's shown in his development and I think you are spot on. If Notre Dame can get that run game established, take some pressure off of him where he doesn't have to constantly throw all season long. That's really going to open up the pass game for this offense," Allison said.
"I agree with you and that's a thing that we have to look for too, because you know, you lost Chase Claypool, you lost Finke. You lost Kmet. You lost some key parts of a passing offense. Now, the young guys are going to have to step up and get it done. The one thing that Ian has going for him and I had this when I played in Washington and at the University of Notre Dame is he's got all 5 of his starters back on the offensive line. To me, that is so huge, because everything starts with those guys up front. You're not going to be able to run the football if you can't block up front. You're not going to be able to throw, if you can't block up front and I think that's critical. His experience, the youth and excitement and energy of the wide receiving corps. The running back is always sort of a running back by committee under Coach Kelly and Ian, having the opportunity now. To spend that full year with Tommy, we've got quite a few practices in as well. A lot of schools, number one aren't even playing, but yet are still able to go out and get the practices in. So, I'm excited for this football team," Theismann said.
"You look at Chase Brice. He's getting the start now for Duke. He's a transfer from Clemson, was behind Trevor Lawrence. How do you think he's going to match up against Notre Dame's tough defense?" Allison said.
"I hope not very well, to be perfectly honest with you. I think that could be the strength of our football team. I mean, the defensive line, always historically, we've seen this defensive line year after year after year put guys into the pros and they're starters right away. It's a young linebacking corps. I think the secondary. The corners are probably the ones that got to step up a little more, but the safetys are really solid. I look at this football team, all the way around. I think it's going to be a challenge for him and it should be. Plus, you know, even though there aren't 80,000 plus people in the stands. Those 17,000 in the student body can make an awful lot of noise at the University of Notre Dame in that stadium," Theismann said.
"Absolutely, and of course, looking at this matchup. Can you give us what your final score prediction is going to be. Notre Dame against Duke," Allison said.
"Notre Dame against Duke? Notre Dame 35. Duke 14," Theismann said.
"Alright and looking at this full season for the Irish. Do you think they can get it done? Can they play for an ACC championship and win it all this year?" Allison said.
"I think, obviously, you can't take anybody lightly and that's going to be Brian's biggest challenge, because now, you're playing in a conference. Now, you're playing in the ACC. You played 6 of them before, but now you're playing the whole conference. The November game against Clemson will be a telltale story for the entire program. I think it will be a landmark football game. It will be a great game. I think Notre Dame has a shot to get to the finals, as far as the championship game goes and who knows what the National Championship is going to look like. You've got so many teams that are not participating. Will this one have an asterisk next to it? Those are all things that are problems to be dealt with down the road," Theismann said. Right now, I have to commend Coach Kelly, his staff and in particular the players for staying the course, being smart. Not winding up putting yourself in situations where you're going to wind up with the virus and bring it back to your teammates. So a great maturity by this football team. A lot of senior leadership and I think Coach Kelly has done a terrific job of getting them ready."