THE MAY 2015 BULLS EYE FEATURE: Jon Runyan
Because he was only the fourth NFL player ever to be elected to the US Congress, it may be a toss-up as to whether Jon Runyan is better known for his 14-year NFL career or for his four year stint in the House of Representatives.
But we’ll bet on the former.
Drafted out of the University of Michigan by the Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans) in 1996, he helped the Titans reach the Super Bowl in 2000 before signing with the Eagles in 2000 and helping lead them to a Super Bowl appearance in 2004.
He was good enough to be elected to play in the 2003 Pro Bowl, but it’s probably more remarkable that he started in 192 consecutive regular season games, as well as 22 playoff games during his “streak.”
Runyan spent the 2009-2010 season with the San Diego Chargers, before retiring from the NFL at the end of the season to run for Congress.
He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from January 2011 to January 2015, representing New Jersey’s Third Congressional District, which encompassed parts of Burlington and Ocean counties and stretched from the Pennsylvania border to the New Jersey shore.
While in Congress, he was a member of the House Armed Services Committee, House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and the House Committee on Natural Resources. And he chaired the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
He fondly recalls that his first piece of legislation to be signed into law was the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2011, which gave disabled veterans their first COLA in several years.
In fact, Runyan’s primary focus in Congress was on veterans issues, such as cost of living adjustments and suicide prevention; defense issues, including mission support on the district’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. He was also heavily involved in coastal and natural resource issues such as beach replenishment and fishing policy; and support for constituents and towns affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Runyan has also taken a stab at broadcasting and his media credits include stints as an on-air analyst and personality for Comcast SportsNet, WIP Sports Talk Radio and 92.5 XTU Country Radio, as well as a player reporter for Fox 29 Philadelphia.
In addition to serving as the Board Chair for “Wish Upon a Hero,” he is the six-time host of his personal “Score for the Cure” golf tournament, benefitting prostate cancer research in New Jersey.
He is also actively involved with Alzheimer’s Association of the Delaware Valley, the New Jersey Special Olympics, USO, Leukemia-Lymphoma Society, American Red Cross, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, as well as many charities benefitting veterans.
A University of Michigan alum who majored in Kinesilogy, Runyan also earned a Certificate of Entrepreneurial Management from U-Penn’s Wharton School on 2005.
The former Congressman is one of three sons of Tom, 61, and Janice, 62. He has twin brothers, Josh and Joel, 39. Josh is a master carpenter and Joel is an Army vet and mechanical engineer.
Runyan, whose childhood ambition was to play in the NBA, was introduced to his wife Loretta Guevara by a friend…and then had to borrow $200 to take her out from the man who introduced them.
The Runyans have three children, Isabella (“Bella”), 13, a student at Moorestown Friends; Alyssa, 15, also a student at Moorestown Friends; and Jon Daniel, 17, a student at St. Josephs, who has signed a letter of intent to play at Michigan.
Lucy, a potbelly pig, and a GMC pick-up, a Bentley Flying Spur and an Escalade round out the Runyan household.
Runyan’s “real” jobs have included working as both a landscaper and a security guard, and what he knows now that he wishes he’d known then is ”It ain’t that hard” and “Don’t take yourself too seriously.”
The best advice he ever received was “If you are going to do something, put everything into it.” And as for the worst advice he has ever received, Runyan says, “ I don’t take bad advice.”
His personal motto is “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” and he says that he measures success by “empowering people—family and others—to succeed.”
His goal yet to be achieved is to be “fully” retired by the age of 50 …which would technically be his third retirement, if you count the NFL and Congress.
The company or organization that Runyan respects the most is Penske Automotive. “They take great care of their people and Roger Penske is a genius,” he says.
Runyan’s greatest fear is “murky bottoms (lakes, etc.)…not knowing what is at the bottom.”
Maybe that’s related to the “dumbest thing” he ever did which was “jumping off a lighthouse at Lake Heron.” Or maybe not…
His secret talent is that he’s a “great cook and griller”
“One game you will never beat me at is basketball,” he says and adds that in high school, “I was voted best athlete.”
Runyan says he is allergic to “arrogant people,” and if you really want to make him angry “show up late.”
One bad habit that Runyan just can’t break is “biting my nails,” and, when asked what he is deathly afraid of, he replies “not being in the situation to help a family member.”
The best South Jersey athlete ever, in his opinion is Franco Harris
His biggest “aha” moment was “visiting the pediatric cancer floor with 5 & 6 year olds…that really put things into perspective.” And, as for do-overs, he says, “No Regrets, we don’t get mulligans in life”
The farthest he has ever been from home is Afghanistan, and, if he could travel back in time, it would be to “Colonial times or the Wild West.”
If his flight is delayed and he’s stuck on the tarmac for a long time, Runyan would most want to be sitting next to “a very petite adult” and would least want to be sitting next to “someone similar in size to me.”
When he meets people, the first thing Runyan notices about them is “their eyes.”
The event that created the most significant emotional reaction on Runyan’s part in the past year occurred “when Jon Daniel signed his letter of intent to play at Michigan. I was overwhelmed with pride.”
When asked what he says when he brags about South Jersey to people from elsewhere in the state or from out of state, he replies, “We have pride in our community.”