ONE OF THE MOST identifiable sports figures in Philadelphia, Ron Jaworski quarterbacked the Eagles from 1977 through 1986 and led the team to Super Bowl XV during his MVP season in '80. He has lived just outside the city since '77 and is the president of the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul as well as a broadcaster for ESPN's Monday Night Football. Below, the Lackawanna, N.Y., native reflects on his adopted home.
MY FIRST FOOTBALL MEMORY OF PHILADELPHIA wasn't a fond one. I played here in 1975 as a member of the Rams, and we ended up killing the Eagles that day. The final score was 42-3. I remember we were standing on the sideline during the fourth quarter and got word to put our helmets on. Why? Golf balls were raining down from the 700 level of Veterans Stadium. We were pummeling the Eagles while getting pummeled ourselves.
To succeed in Philadelphia as an athlete, you'd better be tough. If you're soft, this town will eat you up.
I had known Dick Vermeil because he was an assistant coach with the Rams during my rookie season, and I was very excited when he traded for me in '77. I had confidence that he'd turn the Eagles around.
In an effort to wow me about Philly, Dick took me to the Triangle Tavern restaurant, a little mom-and-pop place in South Philadelphia. The chef came out and sang songs afterward. It was pretty much what I expected, a blue-collar town with hardworking people. I felt welcome.
My first year I played 14 games, and even though we went 5-9, I was ready to take the next step. We went 9-7 in '78 and became a playoff team. I still remember walking into the locker room and seeing our owner, Mr. [Leonard] Tose. I gave him a big hug and said, "Boss, we're winners." We didn't find out until later that night we were going to the playoffs, but it was almost irrelevant. We had gotten the monkey off our back. We were no longer a losing football team.
By 1980 we were a quality team, a great group of guys that was talented and well-coached. Beating the Cowboys in the '80 NFC Championship Game was incredible. Dallas was the team we always targeted, so when we finally beat them for the conference title, we were euphoric. With the windchill it was 17 below zero in Philadelphia, but when that game was over, it felt 85 and sunny.
That year was an incredible time in Philadelphia with the Flyers, Phillies, Eagles and Sixers all making it to the championship games. We were devastated when we lost the Super Bowl to the Raiders, but there was a feeling we would come back the next year and win. That's why it hurts even more 27 years later.
It was difficult to leave the city. I had resigned myself after the '86 season that Randall Cunningham was the quarterback of the future, and I was willing to take a backup position, but Buddy Ryan felt that it would be best for me to move on. Still, I kept a home here.
I have always loved the town, and I understand the fabric of the community. It's a passionate place with passionate fans. I feel very fortunate to have played the majority of my career here. Not only was I a pro football player in Philadelphia, but I'm also a sports fanatic of its teams. I still go to Phillies and Flyers games, and I've had a wonderful experience with the Soul. And one of these days I'm going to bring a championship to the city.