10th Annual Kickoff Luncheon Features Theismann, Dignitaries

By Bo Carter, www.armedforcesbowl.com

Friday’s 10th annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Kickoff Luncheon had all the elements of famed guest speaker Joe Theismann, weekend football celebrations, NFF College Hall of Fame players, and eargerness for kickoff at the BHAFB’s historic contest Saturday at 10:45 a.m. (CST) between Air Force and Rice at TCU’s Amon Carter Stadium.

Theismann geared his speech to the players and spoke about overcoming adversity in many ways.

“For you seniors, take your time putting on your game socks, jerseys and helmets,” he said. “Just think about your final game as a college student-athlete. Relish the moments and know you are representing two great universities.”

“I’m just proud to be here and would rather be at this bowl except maybe for a little bowl Jan. 7 in Miami where a university I know well (his alma mater Notre Dame) is playing Alabama for the BCS championship,” Theismann stated.

“This bowl represents all that is good with the United States and our military forces,” he added. “Those who defend our country deserve much praise.

“When I was in college (1967-71),” he continued, there was a draft for the armed forces. These men and women serve on their freewill. Please include these men and women protecting our freedoms every night in your prayers. Unlike some of the sports heroes who can run fast or throw a football well, these are our real heroes defending our country daily.”

Theismann also draw laughs from the crowd when he spoke of fellow NFF College Hall of Fame members Russell Maryland (Miami, Fla.) and Chad Hennings (Air Force), who played for the major rival of JT’s 1974-85 Washington Redskins’ squads – the local Dallas Cowboys – and were in Friday’s audience.

“Seeing Hennings and Maryland made me think about the Cowboys briefly,” Theismann said with a chuckle. “Though we didn’t play against one another in the NFL, there is still that rivalry. Plus, the Cowboys Star is just one of those icons you associate with great sports teams and football.”

Theismann also inspired the Air Force and Rice student-athletes with tales of overcoming personal adversity.

“When I came to Notre Dame as a freshman I was one of 13 quarterbacks in that class,” he related. “They signed quarterbacks in those days and made them into running backs, defensive backs, and, if they fed them more – linebackers. I simply believed in myself. They couldn’t find another position for this short, skinny guy, and I just kept hanging in there.

“The same thing happened in the pros,” said the quarterback for Notre Dame’s 1971 Cotton Bowl Classic national runnerup against Texas in allas. “I played in the Canadian Football League for three years and was signed as a punt returner for the Redskins.

“It’s really about will and want,” he told the competing teams’ student-athletes..“Shoot for the moon. It’s not just a matter of Xs and Os. You have an opportunity to compete and compete well tomorrow. Have a positive attitude, and don’t be cocky or egotistical on the field. The team and your role are the two most important things to your success in tomorrow’s game and in life. Embrace it.”

Theismann also offered a life lesson about how college athletics and football can affect a youngster’s future and even his name.

“I was called into the Notre Dame sports information office one day before my senior year,” he recalled. “The sports information director – Roger Valdiserri – asked me how I pronounced my name. I told him ‘Thees-man’ (as in long ‘e’). He told me from now on it would be ‘Thise-man’ (rhymes with Heisman as in the collegiate player fo the year award). I immediately called my father.

“I asked him how we pronounced our family name,” Theismann laughed, “and got one of those strange reactions.”

“Thees-man, of course…” his dad replied.

“You know five years later I was having dinner with my family and asked my father how we pronounced the family name,” Theismann continued. “He told me without blinking Theismann (as in Heisman),a nd we’ve used that ever since.”

Yes, Joe Theismann and the 10th annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl truly can be life-changing experiences for the players, coaches, military, and attendees this weekend.

Luncheon Notes:

BHAFB Great American Patriot Award recipient Gen. (ret. USAF) Norton A. Schwartz (a 1973 AFA graduate and former Air Force Chief of Staff), Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Bell Helicopter President and CEO John Garrison, luncheon chair Dave O’Lenick, co-chair Bob Pence, National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame Chief Operations Officer Matthew Sign (a 1989-92 Rice standout as a nose guard), presidents and directors of athletics as well as other dignitaries from other schools.

“Of course, I am pulling hard for Air Force,” said Hennings who starred at the Academy from 1984-87. “I was here when they beat Houston in 2009, so maybe that’s a good sign.”

by Charity Chambers, www.armedforcesbowl.com

Hundreds gathered on Friday afternoon at The Omni Hotels & Resorts in Fort Worth for The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Kickoff Luncheon.

In attendance with the Air Force & Rice players and coaches, were numerous of familiar names and faces ranging from keynote speaker Joe Theismann to Drew Pearson. Theismann gave an outstanding speech which, without a doubt, pumped up the football players and the coaches for tomorrow's game. Theismann stated that it is moments like these (collegiate moments) that they will remember for their rest of their lives.

"The experiences that you are going through in college today," Theismann said. "Will affect you the rest of your lives."

Theismann was no stranger to the stage as he spoke with such zeal and passion. Many times throughout his speech he emphasized the fact that it takes more than a single person to win a game; it takes the team as a whole.

"Here you are members of a team. I love that little word; that acronym.” Theismann said. “T-E-A-M: Together Everyone Achieves More. You are all individuals committed to a common goal, so it doesn't matter what your role is, embrace it."

Theismann's enthusiastic, fervent, and passionate speech was a moment to remember for the Air Force and Rice football players.  Words of encouragement from one of the best players to ever play the game are sure to be a highlight of not only their college careers, but their lives as well.

Air Force and Rice are scheduled to play each other tomorrow at 10:45 a.m. at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

“I am probably supporting the Texas team – Rice,” laughed Maryland. “Don’t tell Henings or Matthew Sign. It should be a very good football game.”