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Before Dak Prescott suffered his gruesome leg injury, there was Alex Smith. Before there was Alex Smith, there was Joe Theismann. The former Washington quarterback offered his thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys quarterback’s injury and what he expects to see from Prescott in the future. 

Joe Theismann’s injury permanently scarred viewers 

November 18, 1985. Washington quarterback Joe Theismann handed the ball off to fullback John Riggins, who then proceeded to pitch the ball back to his quarterback on a flea-flicker play. That delay allowed Giants linebackers Lawrence Taylor, Gary Reasons, and Harry Carson enough time to meet at Theismann simultaneously. 

Taylor’s knee and subsequent body weight came down on Theismann’s right leg. Those nearby could hear two loud pops as both the tibia and fibula in the quarterback’s right leg snapped. Taylor began frantically waving to the sidelines for help. 

Theismann’s injury, which ended his career, was voted in an ESPN poll as the most shocking moment in NFL history. It was the first time such a gruesome injury was broadcast on live television. It certainly wasn’t the last. 

Alex Smith’s injury eerily similar to Theismann’s

Bizarrely, 33 years to the day after Joe Theismann’s injury, it happened to the same team and the same position. This time Washington quarterback Alex Smith was dropped by Houston Texans defenders J.J. Watt and Kareem Jackson. Again, it was the right leg that exploded under so much weight, both the tibia and fibula snapping instantly.

Compared to Joe Theismann’s injury, Smith’s turned out to be much worse because, after his first surgery, he developed life-threatening necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating disease that resulted in sepsis. Doctors considered amputation of his leg to potentially save his life. 

Doctors, however, managed to avoid the drastic measure and not only saved Smith’s leg, but his career. Incredibly, after 17 surgeries and months of rehabilitation, doctors cleared Smith to return to play. On October 11, 2020, Smith returned to the field and played in one of the most improbable comebacks in sports history. 

Joe Theismann offers Prescott personal advice

After Dak Prescott suffered his gruesome injury on Sunday, Joe Theismann immediately felt a sense of responsibility. He told TMZ he wanted to reach out to the Dallas Cowboys quarterback and offer him some advice.

“I’d love to reach out to Dak. A matter of fact, I put feelers out to see if it’s a possibility that I might be able to just have a conversation with him and tell him no matter what you go through mentally, you’re gonna get through this and you’re gonna be okay.”

The 1983 MVP and Super Bowl-winning quarterback said even if he doesn’t talk to Prescott, he believes the Dallas signal-caller will make it back to the NFL like Smith has done.

“I don’t know what the Cowboys are gonna do regarding the economics of his situation, but to me, I really don’t care. I really care about Dak being able to come back and be the football player that he wants to be, and I know he’s gonna be terrific. I’m already sort of excited about his future going forward!”

Joe Theismann introduced NFL fans to gruesome injuries 35 years ago. Even all these years later, he’s remembered for that moment. What’s remarkable is he’s taken that physical and mental pain of suddenly ending his career and used it to encourage others like Prescott that they can overcome and do something he couldn’t do. Theismann was a great quarterback, and has turned out to be an even better person.


Joe Theismann’s Gruesome Leg Injury Helped Change His Image for the Better