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All-Pro Quarterback, College Football Hall of Famer Headlines Mississippi College Athletics Dinner

All-Pro quarterback Joe Theismann will share his incredible story of triumph over tragedy during the Dr. Don Phillips Athletics Dinner at Mississippi College.
All-Pro quarterback Joe Theismann will share his incredible story of triumph over tragedy during the Dr. Don Phillips Athletics Dinner at Mississippi College.

A Super Bowl-winning quarterback who bounced back from a career-ending injury to carve a successful niche in NFL broadcasting will share his inspiring story during the annual Mississippi College Dr. Don Phillips Athletics Dinner Thursday, March 23.

Joe Theismann, a three-time All-Pro selection who guided the Washington Redskins to consecutive Super Bowls, including a 27-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins in 1983, will serve as the keynote speaker for a dinner that has become one of the most important events for the MC Athletic Department.

During the last 18 years, Choctaw athletic dinners have raised more than $2 million – including more than $220,000 last year – to benefit all 18 of the University’s varsity athletic programs for men and women.

Kenny Bizot, MC athletic director, said the funds raised at the event will support the Choctaws as they compete in the Gulf South Conference and on a national level.

“It’s a special night that brings the MC family together, including our coaches, our fans, MC faculty and staff, and community members who have generously supported our program for many years,” Bizot said. “The event puts us all together in one place and helps strengthen our relationships.”

The dinner is named in memory of Dr. Don Phillips, a 1954 graduate of MC and a dedicated trustee and board chair who played a leading role in launching the event.

“Don Phillips was a great man and a tremendous supporter of our athletic department,” Bizot said.

Attendees will have an opportunity to participate in a silent auction of autographed items and other sports memorabilia prior to the 6:30 p.m. dinner in Anderson Hall in the B.C. Rogers Student Center. Following the meal, a pair of MC student-athletes will give their testimonies and attendees can participate in a live auction of various sports-related prizes, including a weekend getaway to New Orleans and tickets to a Saints game, before the keynote speech.

The highlight of the evening will be remarks from Theismann, an all-American at Notre Dame who led the Fighting Irish to consecutive Cotton Bowl victories and finished runner-up in the 1971 Heisman Trophy race to Jim Plunkett of Stanford. A two-sport star, he was drafted by the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League and the Minnesota Twins of Major League Baseball, but chose to play for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

In 1974, Theismann joined the Redskins and set franchise marks for passing yardage (25,206), completions (2,044), and attempts (3,602). Selected the NFL’s Man of the Year in 1982 for his community service and dedication to the health and welfare of children, he won the league’s 1983 MVP Award. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, he was named MVP of the 1984 contest.

His 12-season streak of 163 consecutive games halted during a fateful Monday Night Football contest against the New York Giants at RFK Stadium on Nov. 18, 1985. With a score of 7-7 in the second quarter, Washington executed a flea-flicker play. Theismann received the pitch back from Redskins running back John Riggins and searched for a receiver downfield.

Giants linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson, both Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees, converged on Theismann for a sack. Taylor crashed awkwardly into the quarterback’s lower right leg, simultaneously fracturing his tibia and fibula in one of the most gruesome injuries broadcast on national television.

For millions of football fans watching that night, the image of Taylor sacking Theismann is as vivid today as it was almost four decades ago. The injury forced Theismann to retire from the NFL at age 36.

After grueling months of rehabilitation, Theismann embarked on a successful sports broadcasting career. He became a football color analyst for ESPN Sunday Night Football and ESPN Monday Night Football, and provided Thursday Night Football coverage for the NFL Network. He also appeared as himself in several movies, including “B.J. and the Bear,” “Cannonball Run II,” and “The Man from Left Field.”

Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003, Theismann’s career-ending injury was featured in the 2009 film “The Blind Side.” He also appeared in the 2013 television series “Necessary Roughness.” Theismann now works for the NFL Network as part of its show, “Playbook,” and oversees a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C. called “Joe Theismann’s.”

Bizot said Theismann’s speech will resonate with student-athletes at Mississippi College.

“The fact that he had this horrific injury, but it didn’t keep him down, that he took another path and became very successful in the sport he loves, is an important message for our student-athletes,” Bizot said. “To hear a message from someone who had real adversity, something that was devastating to him at the time, but then to see where he is today, will be truly motivating for them.

“It will be uplifting for what they go through every day, especially our student-athletes who may be battling an injury, going through rehab, and fighting through the long hours and the pain to try to perform once again.”

Tickets to the 2023 Mississippi College Dr. Don Phillips Athletics Dinner cost $150 each, and table sponsorships are available. Sponsorship levels range from Blue (a $1,250 sponsorship that includes eight complimentary tickets) and Silver (a $2,500 sponsorship that includes eight complimentary tickets with preferred seating) to Gold (a $5,000 sponsorship that includes a private, pre-dinner visit with Theismann, eight complimentary tickets with preferred seating, and three reserved parking passes) and Platinum (a $10,000 sponsorship that includes a private pre-dinner visit, 12 complimentary tickets with preferred seating, and four reserved parking passes).

Regardless of ticket or sponsorship level, Bizot expects everyone in attendance to enjoy a memorable night supporting the Choctaw athletic program.