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Joe Theismann's starring role in The Blind Side

Joe Theismann went to see "The Blind Side" the day after it opened. He knew that he was the star of the film's first few minutes--with his famous broken leg at the hands of Lawrence Taylor used to demonstrate, in massive and graphic detail, the rise of the left tackle in the NFL. And when the grisly moment came, Theismann didn't watch.

"When I went to the movie I actually closed my eyes and listened to the crowd reaction," he said this week. "There were a lot of sighs and oohs and ahhs. And once they stopped, I opened my eyes."

In truth, Theismann had known he would be a part of the movie for months. He and his wife have a home in Memphis, and his wife knows Leigh Anne Tuohy, the Sandra Bullock character who narrates the movie's Theismann scenes. Theismann is also a longtime friend of FedEx Founder Fred Smith, whose daughter Molly was one of the movie's executive producers.

When the plans for the movie got more concrete, Fred Smith actually called Theismann to tell him they planned on using the footage and to ask if he was ok with that.

"I said, 'Yeah, I'm fine,' "Theismann told me. "It sort of sets the tone for the whole movie."

And as the movie became a surprise smash, grossing more than $150 million, earning Bullock a Golden Globe nomination, and attracting flocks of non-NFL fans, Theismann's playing days received a strange burst of publicity.

"It's interesting; it sort of reintroduces me to another generation," he said. "That's the thing that I've found. People come up and ask me about it, say 'Gosh, I went to see the movie, I didn't realize the beginning of it was you.' There's a generation of young people out there that wouldn't really know the history of Joe Theismann unless you went out and Googled [me]. This sort of introduces me to a group of people, another generation of I call them feel good fans, not just football fans."

As for the play itself, Theismann has still only seen it one time, on the 20th anniversary of the hit, at the urging of the New York Times's Richard Sandomir.

"I actually watched basically through the broken leg," he recalled this week. "The one thing I noticed, we should have been up 21-0, I was playing lousy in the first quarter. Three or four plays into the second quarter, my stomach started getting a little queasy at that time. I had a feeling it was coming."

(He also discussed the incident with The Post's Leonard Shapiro on the 20th anniversary, telling Shapiro that "I heard what sounded like a shotgun going off -- Pow! Pow! -- and felt this excruciating pain. Then I was on the ground.")

Seeing the clip that one time, he said this week, was enough. So when he was sitting in the movie theater last month, with the young Theismann dropping back and looking futilely for an open receiver, he wasn't tempted to open his eyes.

"Not at all," he said. "I've seen it once and I'll never see it again. I went 20 years and didn't see it, and it'll be the rest of my life. I know what happened. I don't need to see it again. I sort of filled that void, I went through the feelings and the emotions once again, and that's plenty for me."

He was supposed to attend the premiere in New York, but he had a prior conflict, which is how he wound up watching it in a Northern Virginia theater, at a sparsely attended matinee.

"I sort of wanted it to be a littler more private for myself, as opposed to walking in and sitting down and having everybody say 'Ooooh there he is,' or coming up and saying, 'How did it feel?' It hurt."

But Theismann said he has no qualms at all about his place in the film. He said his injury helped move television producers away from gruesome replays, and that he's thankful his injury "didn't happen in this day and age, because with high def it would have been more graphic."

And he said he was happy to be a part of this particular replay.

"You're always proud to be a part of something special," Theismann told me. "And I think this movie is very special."

By Dan Steinberg  |  December 16, 2009; 4:49 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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Comments

I saw "The Blind Side" a few weeks ago, not knowing that it opened with this footage.

First thing I saw was the uniforms obviously. Thought: "Sweet! The Skins!"

Then I saw #44. Thought: "OMG RIGGO!"

Then...I saw the drop back.... Thought: "SH17."

Posted by: TheSuperhoo | December 16, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2009/12/report-cerrato-out-as-redskins-vp/1

Posted by: alex35332 | December 17, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

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