WASHINGTON — When somebody says “Lawrence Taylor” to a Redskins fan, it’s hard for the Redskins fan to think of anything other than Joe Theismann.
Taylor, of course, ended Theismann’s career with a vicious, albeit unintentional, hit to the lower leg back in 1985. In the play, Taylor was going for a sack on the Redskins quarterback, lunged at him from behind and just happened to drive his knee right into the back of the 36-year-old Theismann’s leg.
The result: a fractured fibula and tibia, and not a single snap played for the rest of Theismann’s career.
The famous play is available to watch on YouTube, but it won’t be embedded in this post as the video is somewhat graphic.
In his new book, the former Giants great reminisces on the infamous play, explaining how it went down in his eyes, and how it changed the path of his life. Here is an excerpt, per ESPN.com, that provides insight into the play in question.
Joe Theismann and I are linked forever because of an unfortunate incident that happened on November 18, 1985, during a Monday night game at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., against the Redskins.
At the beginning of the second quarter, Theismann handed off to John Riggins. The Diesel bulled toward the middle of the line, putting his head down for the impact. Then he changed his tack, stopping and flipping the ball back to Theismann. They were trying a flea flicker. Theismann wanted to throw downfield to Art Monk.
Unfortunately for the Redskins and Theismann, we read the play correctly. We were blitzing. It felt like our entire defense was pouring in on Theismann. I got a hold of him and pulled him down. As we went to the ground, my knee rammed into his lower right leg; Harry Carson and Gary Reasons also congregated at Theismann on the sack. He didn’t get up. I didn’t expect him to, either. I knew he’d been hurt badly.
Theismann later told the New York Times in a 2005 interview: “The pain was unbelievable, it snapped like a breadstick. It sounded like two muzzled gunshots off my left shoulder. Pow, pow! It was at that point, I also found out what a magnificent machine the human body is. Almost immediately, from the knee down, all the feeling was gone in my right leg. The endorphins had kicked in, and I was not in pain.”
Everybody on the field saw Theismann sprawled out on the field and knew he was in trouble. I know I started hollering for the doctors to get to him in a hurry to give him some help. Initially, some of the Redskins thought I was taunting after the sack. That obviously wasn’t the case.
It’s just one of those things that happened. I knew he was hurt when I heard him under the pile yelling and I understood. That’s why I tried to get everybody off him and get some help for him. I knew when you’re sitting on the bottom of the pile — I don’t care if it’s a toe sprain, or an ankle sprain, I don’t care what it is — it seems like forever, like the people on top of you are never going to figure it out. All you want is the people to get off of you and to get some help. And to breathe again.
Everybody just kind of stood around like nobody knew what had happened.
At that juncture of his career, Theismann was still a decent football player and an icon in Washington. Of course, I’d been playing against him for years. And during our time, we spent a lot of time together and we’d see each other a lot. Just like anybody else, you hate to see somebody sit there and suffer. So I wanted to get some help out there for the sumbitch.
What happened? He fractured both the tibia and the fibula. In other words, the lower leg bones in his right leg were broken between his ankle and knee. That end result left his leg bent gruesomely in different directions.
More on the aftermath is available in the linked ESPN article, and Taylor’s book is available for purchase here.