'Jaws' helps bring AFL back to ESPN

Posted: April 29, 2014

Win or lose, Sunday was a big day for the Philadelphia Soul, the arena football team co-owned by former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski.

That's because the game against the Iowa Barnstormers marked the first time since 2008 that sports network ESPN showed an Arena Football League game, the first one telecast this season.

"It is ridiculously exciting to have the worldwide leader back with the Arena Football League," Jaworski, 63, said Thursday, stopping for a conversation in the ballroom of Valleybrook Country Club, one of five golf courses he owns in the region.

ESPN analyst Jaworski has the particular gift of sounding excited about everything, so he also talked about another project launched in April: Jaworski Turf Solutions, headed by Jaworski's son, B.J., and Charlie Clark, superintendent of Jaworski's four Jersey golf courses.

"Charlie Clark - he could grow grass on that ballroom floor, he's that good," Jaworski said. "We're maintaining grass at 1/32 of an inch when it's 90 degrees outside. If we have that equipment, why not put it to work?"

First contract? Maintaining Campbell's Field, home of the Camden Riversharks.

Question: Obviously, as a longtime ESPN analyst, you know a lot of people at the network. Did you have anything to do with convincing ESPN to broadcast AFL games?

Answer: Yes. I talked to a lot of people and fortunately I've developed good relationships with John Skipper, who is the president, John Wildhack and Norby Williamson - these are the guys that are the top executives at ESPN, and, by the way, they like the product. It's a little bit of niche product, but people are insane for football.

Q: But why Philadelphia?

A: Philadelphia is a really good arena market. People in this town love football. We had 12,300 at our season opener.

Q: What's normal?

A: About 10,000.

Q: The last AFL game ESPN broadcast was the 2008 championship, won by the Soul.

A: Unfortunately, the league went dark in 2009; it shut down to basically retool the business plan. We were dark for two years after winning the championship.

Q: Would you have made a good arena football quarterback?

A: No. It's a different game. I was a power thrower and that's what the NFL is about - a long way, velocity. Hard. Tight areas to throw the ball into. You had to have arm strength. The [arena] field is much shorter - 50 yards as opposed to 100. The arena is much more angles and touch than the outdoor game.

Q: With that strong arm, are you good at opening jars?

A: No, because I have arthritic hands. I can open jars, but I need one of those rubber things.

Q: You got into the golf course business while you were still playing for the Eagles. Why bother? Weren't you one of the highest-paid quarterbacks?

A: I played 17 years. The average NFL career is 31/2 years.

Q: So why was your career so long?

A: The good Lord took care of me. Still, I was always scared to death that my next play would be my last play. Blow my knee out. Blow my shoulder out. I wanted to be prepared if I couldn't play anymore that I'd have something to fall back on.

Q: Do quarterbacks get a lot of concussions?

A: Every position. I had 32.

Q: How do you feel?

A: I ask my wife every day, "How am I doing? Am I OK?"


RON JAWORSKI

Resides: Medford.

Family: Wife, Liz; children, Joleen, 37, Jessica, 36, and B.J., 30.

Diplomas: Youngstown State, health, physical education.

Resumé: Drafted out of high school in baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. After college, drafted by Los Angeles Rams. Joined the Eagles in 1977.

Nickname: "Jaws," for his gift of gab, useful as an ESPN analyst.

Golf game: High 70s to low 80s.


COMPANIES

Ron Jaworski Golf: Controlling partner in Valleybrook, Blackwood; RiverWinds, West Deptford; Running Deer, Pittsgrove; Blue Heron Pines, Little Egg Harbor; Honey Run, York.

Business Clubs America: Area franchise of networking group.

Philadelphia Soul: Shares majority ownership with Craig Spencer, Arden Group.

Jaworski Turf Solutions: New venture.

What else: Limited partner in Chinese arena football venture.

Family charity: Jaws Youth Playbook.

Employs: 800 to 900, full time, part time, seasonal.


MORE ONLINE

Ron Jaworski: U.S. colleges like arena football in China.

www.inquirer.com/jobbing


Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.

jvonbergen@phillynews.com

215-854-2769

@JaneVonBergen

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