Joe Theismannn is an entrepreneur and former star Washington quarterback. Joe played in 163 consecutive games from 1974 to 1985. He led Washington to a victory over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII. He spent decades working for ESPN on their NFL broadcasts. Today, he oversees a popular Washington, D.C., restaurant that bears his name. This will be his seventh year as host of Virginia Vine for the V Foundation.
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John: Welcome to another edition of The Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian, and this is a very, very special edition. We’ve got with us today, Joe Theismann, the legendary Super Bowl champion quarterback. He’s also a broadcaster, entrepreneur, restaurateur, philanthropist, and he’s also the chairman of the upcoming V Foundation, Big Virginia Vine Dinner. Welcome today to the Impact Podcast show.
Joe Theismann: John. Thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to our conversation. We’ve got a lot of great things happening at Virginia Vine, and this is our 30th year of the V Foundation started 1993 when Jimmy walked to the podium. ESPN and Jimmy Valvano put together, an unbelievable experience going forward to fight cancer.
John: How well did you know Jimmy Valvano before that event? And he, and he gave his great Never Give Up speech.
Joe: I knew of Jimmy because I grew up in South River, New Jersey, which is about 20 minutes from New Brunswick where Rutgers University is located. Bobby, Lloyd, and Jim Valvano were the guards when I was in high school. They were the guards in college at Rutgers. So, I was aware of Jimmy at that time. And, as time went on and I got into professional sports and got into speaking a little bit more, I know Jimmy was doing it. Followed his career, interestingly enough, because I signed originally at North Carolina State University, of which he was coaching. We had a little bit of synergy there. Didn’t see him that much. Then my dear, dear friend Harry Rhodes, who ran the Washington Speakers Bureau, owned the Washington Speakers Bureau. Jimmy and I would wind up at different events together. I would see him, I would see videos of what he’s done. And like I said, I just got to know and admire him. I mean, he was one giant ball of energy. That’s, if anybody says to me, what do you remember most about Jimmy Valvano? Was his energy and his passion for life?
John: I’ll tell you that speech has been watched so many times by so many people I know, including myself, and has made a huge impact on all of us. What now? This is the 30th anniversary of the V Foundation. For those who aren’t familiar with the V Foundation, you go to v, it’s that simple, v.org, v.org. And for the Virginia Vine event that you’re going to be hosting, it’s v.org/virginiavine. Talk a little bit about the importance of this Virginia Vine event that’s coming up. April 14th to 16th in Middleburg, Virginia. Why are you involved there specifically, and why do you love doing that event? And you’ve now done this repetitive time show.
Joe: Before I talk about Virginia Vine, you bring up Jimmy’s speech. I carry a copy of Jimmy’s speech with me all the time. It’s in my briefcase, it’s in my notes when I do presentations. I reference it quite often where he talks about, you have to think, you have to laugh, you have to cry. You have to bring your emotions to a level where you feel them. You have to remember where your, you’ve been, where your car is, and where you’re going. I take parts of that speech and I incorporate into my presentation because Jimmy talked about life. He talked about sharing life. He talked about experiencing life. The entire evening I sat there with him 30-plus years ago, I remember it wasn’t about Jimmy Valvano fighting cancer. It wasn’t about anything but life. That’s really what the v Foundation has become an opportunity to be able to try, give people life. Sitting there at the ESPY that night, the first night when he received the Arthur Ashe Award, I remember the doctors were saying, “Hey, you can’t go. You’re not strong enough.” You’re not going to tell Jimmy, “no”. Of course, his dear friend Mike Krzyzewski and Dick Vitale and all of us had a chance to be there. He helped him on stage. I remember helping him off the stage. As he stood behind that podium, and he gave that speech with the passion that only Jimmy Valvano could give, in the way he could only give, the emotions just run wild inside of you. You understand what this man is fighting. You understand what his life potentially is going to be or could be. And yet he stood there in front of millions and millions of people and had such incredible strength, John, and said, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” That’s our mantra as well as Jimmy’s. But, I’m just honored that I was asked about five or six years ago, this is our eighth year with Virginia Vine. I was given an opportunity to be the host then, and I’m again hosting it this year. It runs from April 14th to April 16th. April 14th, we have a wine and country music event. April 15th, we have the voices for Victory where we’ll have sports people talk, as well as our medical staff and people that are researching cancer. And on the 15th, we have a breakfast. The 15th is the evening of the dinner and the 16th is the breakfast the next morning.
John: What’s the goal? How much money want to raise?
Joe: We like to raise at least a million dollars. We have to last a couple of years. We got within a whisker of it last year and the year before we managed to do it. Even during COVID, we had an incredible experience, which means people care. When you think about one in three women, one in two men will experience cancer possibly sometime in their lifetime. It’s here but, it can be beat. We have to be able to have the resources to be able to fight, to be able to do it. Like I said, this is the 30th year we’ve been added. We’ve raised over 310 million for research grants. Thank you. First of all, a big thank you to everyone who gives or donates, who cares. John, life is a funny thing. When I was, when I was playing ball, MVP of the National Football League, world Champion Quarterback Man of the Year, award after award, after award. I started feeling pretty special. I felt like I’m something. But, the truth of the matter is we’re not put on this earth to be served. We’re put here by the good Lord and graces of the good Lord to be able to serve others. That’s really what the V Foundation does. We’re here to try and serve others. It isn’t just the patients that are being treated for cancer, it’s their entire family. I think sometimes we tend to focus just on that particular individual, God knows that fight is incredible, but it’s their family members, the support system around them. For us, it’s not just, it’s not just raising money to treat cancer, but it’s to be able to provide the opportunity to be able to take care of the family as well as the person that’s fighting the fight. And, and, and that’s, that’s what I think people have to realize. I say this to everybody, John, if you haven’t had cancer touch your life, and I don’t imagine there are many people that have in one way, shape, or form. Then you’re very blessed and lucky. But if you have had it happen in your life, you want to be able to know that there’s someplace that there’s continuing research going on. And the only way we can do that is to fund it. That’s really why I’m so honored to be able to host the Virginia Vine Evening. On that whole weekend, to be able to, give back and look at other people and say, I want to help you, I want to help you any way I can.
John: Let’s talk about the funding aspect of it. This is important for our listeners and viewers to understand all the money that comes to the V Foundation. It goes to cancer research and programs. It’s not what we’ve read over the years now. Because of the transparency that exists because of the internet and other social media, we get to look into all these nonprofits around the world and see how much money is going towards administration, how much money is going towards the cause that you donated to. At the V Foundation, it looks like a hundred percent of the money that is donated is going to the money that people are donating it for, for cancer research and funding program. Is that the truth?
Joe: Yes. I believe it’s the truth. That’s the way it’s been and that’s the way it’s going to be going forward. Some of administrative costs, but the money that comes in, the money that is donated goes to research for Cancer. So it’s cure for Cancer
John: So, it’s a volunteer Board of Directors giving their time to make this organization work and people like you, great people like you and your colleagues that are, are top business sports and scientific leaders tend that make this happen and allow all the money to directly flow through actually battling and beating cancer?
Joe: It’s an incredible board made up of scientists, sports individuals, business people. It’s with one goal in mind, we want to beat cancer. That’s the bottom line. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. That’s why we’re raising the money, that we’re raising the money. And there’s a, particularly, there’s a resistance that you deal with also. A lot of what we do with our research grants and the therapeutic resistance research that we’re involved in is basically if someone is being treated for cancer and it appears that it might be gone, but yet comes back, that’s the resistance of cancer-fighting against the treatment. We have to continue to try evolve, just as cancer has evolved. We need, as researchers and people fighting it need to be able to continue to evolve and put the resistance out there against it. It’s just an incredible opportunity to be able to help other people. And like I said, it’s not just that person that has cancer, but it’s the entire unit, the family unit around them that is touched by it.
John: Joe, it’s also important to mention, given that you’re such a massive and successful competitor, that if cancer was a football game, we’re winning the game. The game is now the tightest turn because of great organizations like the V Foundation and all the funding that you’re doing, cancer rates are de are, are continuing to decline in men and women of all racial groups right now. Isn’t that make you feel good and make you want to drive even further and further what you’re doing with the V Foundation?
Joe: It’s one thing to be able to talk about it, John, it’s another thing to be able to have statistics that say, here are the facts, 1991 to 2019, the death rate in men and women combined has fallen 33%. That represents approximately 3.5 million people, million people that have died that have not died from cancer. So, that number alone tells you that we’re making progress, we’re continuing to fight, we’re not going to stop, we’re not going to quit. Through the good graces of people that watch your podcast and will tune in and get a chance to see us on the 15th at our dinner to be able to raise money, we appreciate it so much from the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank everybody out there for their donations. Too often you say to yourself, you’re asking for money. Yes. Yes because our research can’t continue if we don’t have the funding to be able to do it. And, we’ve gone through some really tough times. You can’t ignore what people have gone through with the pandemic and the way people’s lives have been changed. It doesn’t matter the amount. It doesn’t matter what you give it. The size of the amount doesn’t matter. It’s the fact that you care and you do give something that’s most appreciated.
John: For listeners and viewers who’ve just shown us, we’ve got legendary NFL quarterback Joe Theismann with us. We’re talking about the V Foundation and their upcoming event, Virginia Vine, you could find the V foundation at v.org. You could find the upcoming event from April 14th to 16th at v.org/virginiavine. Talk a little bit about the run program that’s gonna be going on there, and what kind of fun activities people could have to enjoy if they come out to this wonderful Virginia Vine event and donate.
Joe: We have wine and country music on the 14th. We have the dinner on the 15th, a chance to do that. We have also during the day, Terry Gannon, who’s great broadcaster, he’s gonna be hosting the voices of Victory panel that’s carried on by sports individuals as well as scientists, doctors, people involved in the foundation. And then we have a breakfast that following morning on the 16th where everybody sort of, you know, sort of unwinds a little bit, I guess you could say. Again, we have presentations that just help people understand where the money’s going, who it’s going to, and thanking them for their contribution. That’s sort of the run of the show. One of the thing that’s also interesting, John, people ask me quite often, what would Jimmy think of where we are today 30 years later? Getting to know him like I did, like I said, just a ball of energy, he would probably say, “This is wonderful. It’s wonderful that people are out there contributing. It’s wonderful that people care, but we’re not done, we’re not finished.” My, singular image of Jimmy is after NC State wins the n NCAA basketball tournament, right? He is running around looking for someone to hug. If you get a chance, to look it up online, just look at the end of that ballgame and look at Jimmy running around. He was just looking for anybody to hug. What I tell people now, is he probably would still be running around 30 years later looking for someone to hug, to say, thank you for caring, thank you for donating. But it’s just, like I said, that to me, that’s Jim Valvano. He’d be saying, “Hey, it’s wonderful, but, but the battle’s not over. The fight isn’t won. We have to continue to get better and better and bigger and bigger and raise more and more money.” He would be proud of what his name represented. He would be extremely proud of what ESPN and The V Foundation have done over these 30 years. But we want to keep on fighting. We want to keep on going. That would be Jimmy. He’s with me every day in my briefcase. I have a speech. He’s with me every day.
John: Joe, are there other athletes and entertainers that join you at this Virginia Vine event that are part of your panelists or part of yours, the auction dinner that you host on the vine?
Joe: Terry Gannon, Jay Billis has been there before. We have different individuals that have come. Difficult through the course of a year. Just different people have shown up.
John: Got it. Talk a little bit about people who can’t make the event. What would you be, what’s your call to action for our listeners and viewers? They love what you’re doing. They love what the V Foundation stands for. They can’t make it out physically to the Virginia vine event on April 14th through the 16th. What would then be their second-best option that you would be thrilled about?
Joe: You talked about it, John, you can log on. You’ll be able to make donations through that. I’m not sure whether we’re going to stream it this year. I haven’t gotten the final itinerary yet. We’re now in the process of going through the final aspects of the show, the run of the show, I guess you could say. But we’re still positive that we will have an opportunity for people that can’t be there physically to have an opportunity to donate.
John: So you could go online, make a donation, and to the V Foundation. That’s the second best choice if you can’t make it out in person to see you and all the other great folks that are hosting this important event, April 14th, through 16th in Middleburg, Virginia. It would be remiss of me to not ask you because you’re a living legend in the NFL. Talk a little bit about the importance of what you’re doing, Joe, as serving as a servant leader for the next generation of NFL legends that are playing still today, that can give back once they get out of the NFL like you’ve committed to doing for your entire life. I’ve been a fan of yours since I’m a little kid, and I’ve watched how you’ve continued this throughout. Is this part of your servant leadership and do you coach NFL players today on life after the NFL?
Joe: I try to, John. It’s really funny I appreciate the kind words, and like you said when you were a kid. I get people come up to me quite often and say, “Boy, I loved you when you were playing and my dad loved you.” Then they say, “My grandfather…” and I say, “Let’s not go quite the grandfather shit, Okay. I’ve been around quite that long, but I appreciate it.” There are so many incredible athletes in every aspect; men and women’s sports, professional sports, collegiate sports that give back so much to the community. It’s one of the things that the league emphasizes you see in the National Football League, are different programs where different players are honored with the Man of the Year award. When you receive the Man of the Year award, which I was very, very honored and blessed in 1982 to receive, it has to do with your community service. It has nothing to do with what you do on the football field. It has everything to do with what you do in the community. That’s even become a greater reach now. It’s what players do around the world to try and help those less fortunate. We have so many young men in the world of professional football, and I know in the WNBA and the women that are a part of that and what they do. How they go out and they talk to kids in schools and you visit hospitals. What makes it so gratifying is the smile that you see on someone’s face. When an athlete that is playing in a town and everybody’s excited, all of a sudden you show up into someone’s hospital room and you get a chance to sit and visit with her, or they’ve beaten cancer and they come to a game or throw a pitch out or play catch with them, whatever it might be. You changed someone’s life because now you influenced that individual. Or if you’re, if you’re an athlete and you go to a school and you talk to the kids at the school. There’s 50 kids in the classroom, maybe 10, maybe even a greater percentage will take to heart what you’re doing and say, “I want to do something for my community.” What you’re doing is you’re creating a foundation of young givers. People that want to give back. We’re blessed beyond belief to be able to play a game of our dreams. I dreamt about doing what I wound up doing, and then I lived the dream, then I’ve had a chance since then to be able to say thank you. I do it through hosting the Virginia Vine. Other guys do it. I know some have donated to hospitals, some have built hospitals. Some of these numbers are absolutely incredible for these young people today, but they don’t take it all. They make sure, their agents make sure, the clubs make sure that they do provide some of it to go to the community that they serve. We have guys living everywhere today. It used to when I played, we didn’t have free agency. I stayed in the Washington metropolitan area, that the Cowboys were in Dallas, the Giants were in New York, the 49ers were in San Francisco, Falcon Guys were down in Atlanta. Today, everybody’s all over and they have their reach everywhere. They have an impact on different communities that they live in. It’s just absolutely wonderful to see players, professionals giving back.
John: I had the chance to meet you years ago and I’m a lifelong Cowboy fan, but boy, you make a lifelong Cowboy fan love a Redskin. I’ll tell you what, or a commander now you’re a special human being, Joe. I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart, my listener’s heart for sharing some time with us today on this very, very important topic of beating cancer. This event you’re having at Virginia Vine on April 14th to 16th. For those who want to donate or attend this event, please go to v.org/virginiavine. Joe Theismann, you’re a living legend, not because of what you’ve done in football, but because of how God has blessed you to do all the servant leadership that you’ve done post-football, raising money for the V Foundation. I’m sure Jimmy Valvano is smiling down upon you and all the other great colleagues that you have at the V Foundation. Thank you for your time today, in the Impact Podcast. I know I can’t make the event, but I know I’m donating today, and I hope our listeners and viewers do the same. God bless you and stay healthy. Joe Theismann.
Joe: Thank you, John. I appreciate the opportunity to share Jimmy’s story with you and hopefully look forward to seeing a lot of people there. And if not, thank you for your donations.
John: This episode of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Closed Loop Partners. Closed Loop Partners is a leading circular economy investor in the United States with an extensive network of Fortune 500 corporate investors, family offices, institutional investors, industry experts, and impact partners. Closed loops platform spans the arc of capital, from venture capital to private equity, bridging gaps and fostering synergies. To scale the circular economy. To find closed-loop partners, please go to www.closelooppartners.com.
John: This edition of The Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy, and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit eridirect.com.