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Born and raised in Lackawanna, N.Y., Ron Jaworski was a three-sport star in high school and even turned down an offer from the St. Louis Cardinals in order to pursue his football dreams.

After setting numerous passing records at Youngstown State University, Jaworski was selected in the second round of the 1973 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. “Rifle Ron” spent three limited seasons in L.A. before being part of a trade that would change his career and life.

In 1977, “Jaws” was traded to the upstart Philadelphia Eagles. Playing for legendary coach Dick Vermeil, he became the starter for the young and developing Eagles.

By 1980, Philadelphia was a legitimate Super Bowl contender. With Jaworski at quarterback, the Eagles won the NFC East for the first time since 1960 and made their first Super Bowl appearance in team history. After a decade in Philadelphia that saw him throw for more than 25,000 yards and nearly 200 touchdowns, Jaws signed with Miami as the backup to eventual Hall of Famer Dan Marino. The Pro Bowler finished his career as a backup with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1989.

Also See: Walter Payton Collection highlights Super Bowl Live auction 

Jaworski was just as successful off the field, becoming a leading NFL analyst with ESPN and various media outlets and a highly successful businessman and philanthropist in the northeast.

In this exclusive interview with Tony Reid, the Philadelphia sports icon talks about his collection of autographed Mickey Mantle cards, the memorabilia at his many golf courses and his relationship with Philly fans.

Do you remember the first time someone approached you for an autograph?

It was right after I was drafted by the Rams. I was still at Youngstown State. I did an appearance for a tailor. I was in the store and they produced pictures of me. That was probably 1972 and the first time someone actually asked for my autograph, truthfully, on a picture. I hope they still have it.

What was the most memorable fan interaction you’ve had during your career?

For the most part, my relationship with fans has been very good. Even here in Philadelphia, where the fans can be rough on players that are struggling and things aren’t going well. I think as a professional athlete, you accept that responsibility that comes with the job. In Philly there were times where it was pretty tough but there were times where it was absolutely sensational and there were standing ovations. You can’t have it one way all the time.

Legendary Eagles quarterbacks Ron Jaworski and Donovan McNabb during a game in Philadelphia in 2021.

Legendary Eagles quarterbacks Ron Jaworski and Donovan McNabb during a game in Philadelphia in 2021.

Our futures are based on performance. If you perform, you will have a long career. By playing 17 years in the NFL, I performed. Most people remember my time in Philly but I played for the Rams for four years. I went to the NFC Championship game in 1975 quarterbacking the Rams. I played two years backing up Dan Marino in Miami. I spent a year in Kansas City in 1989. Howie Long fell on the back of my leg and blew my knee out and that was the end of my playing career. I think I did something right to play 17 years.

Also See: Jim McMahon talks collecting, Mad Mac and the Super Bowl shuffle 

The consistency you exhibited from the time you got to Philadelphia to the end of your career was remarkable. What led to that level of consistency?

There is no doubt that I was very fortunate in those formative years in Los Angeles to have outstanding coaches. Chuck Knox was a fantastic football coach. … Chuck really taught me about a work ethic. If you are going to succeed in the NFL, its 365 days a year. You have to be committed to it. That was the most important thing I learned as a rookie, you have to put the time in. I learned that from him.

I came to Philly and Dick Vermeil is cut from the same cloth. Don Shula, Marty Schottenheimer and Buddy Ryan, all of those guys. I was lucky to have great coaches. They all taught me that if you want to succeed in this business you have to work at it.

Your rookie card appeared in the classic 1976 Topps set. Do you remember seeing yourself on a trading card for the first time?

I do! Along the way there are so many strange cards I see. There is one of me pictured in the Eagles uniform but there were no wings on the helmet. One year the NFLPA and the NFL had some disagreements, so they didn’t give the players association the rights to put the Eagles helmet on the card. Every time I look at that one I think how weird that it’s not an Eagles helmet, it’s just a green helmet.

1976 Topps Ron Jaworski rookie card.

1976 Topps Ron Jaworski rookie card.

1980 Topps Ron Jaworski card.

1980 Topps Ron Jaworski card.

Also See: Former NFL star Jim Everett talks card collection, current QBs 

Do you have a favorite card from your cardboard history?

I think it was from the 1985 season. I was with the Eagles. I had a hat on. I wore a hat on the sideline. I got fined $500 for wearing the hat. It wasn’t a hat given to me by the Eagles. I owned golf courses, which I still do as my business now. Back then it was a side deal. The club was called the Eagle’s Nest Country Club. That picture showed up on a card. I tell people, that card is very valuable. That is not an Eagles hat. That is an Eagles Nest hat. I got fined $500. I had to pay the price.

1986 Topps Ron Jaworski card showing a hat from his Eagles Nest golf club.

1986 Topps Ron Jaworski card showing a hat from his Eagles Nest golf club.

Being as wildly popular as you are, how much fan mail do you get and how special is it to still be so loved and appreciated to this day?

I got to tell you, Tony, it is overwhelming. I am sitting in my office at home right now and in front of me is a stack of about 20 letters. I get about 10 pieces of fan mail per day. I haven’t played a down since 1990 and here I am still getting fan mail. The ESPN career certainly helped. Monday Night Football and the visibility of the shows I still do keeps my name out there. I do a number of cards shows nationally and locally. There are even new cards coming out of me from my playing days, the cool cards that they make now. I get a bunch of those every day.

It’s amazing that I get these cards. … There was an old box that got lost in my storage. I pulled it out. Some of the fan mail was eight to 10 years old. These people just got cards a few months ago. They thought Jaws forgot about them. Ten years later, at least I got it done. We got it all out.

As a young kid and blossoming athlete, what player inspired you most?

Jack Kemp. As a kid growing up in Buffalo, I was a Buffalo Bills fan. I was a Bills season ticket holder. I still remember my seat. I was 12 years old. I had a season ticket — Section 23, Row 13, Seat 3 at the old War Memorial Stadium. Jack Kemp was the quarterback of the Bills. They won the AFL Championship. 

1967 Topps Jack Kemp card.

1967 Topps Jack Kemp card.

He went on to reach a very high degree in politics. I was very lucky to have gotten to know Jack Kemp. He became someone I idolized as a football player, as a person and in the way he gave to the community.

Did you collect sports cards as a kid?

Absolutely. I wore number 7 because I was a big Mickey Mantle fan. People always ask me why number 7. That is the reason why. I wore number 7 playing high school baseball. Number 7 felt lucky to me. I still have some of the cards I collected back then. I know my son probably confiscated a lot of those. He is 36. He has a great collection himself. Through the years he has taken my good ones.

The Mantles alone are most likely worth a small fortune today.

No question. I got them signed by Mickey. We did appearances together when I was playing. It’s funny when I do some of these card shows, I would always ask the guys I was working with for an autograph for me. I’m not that shy.

You mentioned sitting in your office now. Do you have memorabilia from your great career displayed?

I am all over the place. In fact, a lot of my stuff is displayed at my golf course. I own and operate seven golf clubs and each one has a sports bar as a part of the club. There are a lot of old jerseys, helmets and memorabilia hanging on the walls.

If you could go back and stop anyone after a game during your career and ask to swap jerseys, who are you asking and why?

Joe Montana. I have been with Joe a number of times. In fact, I have a jersey of his now. Jersey swapping just wasn’t a thing. No one even thought of it back then. I was in great admiration of Joe. Joe wasn’t the most dynamic in terms of arm strength and all of these different arm angles but he was probably the most consistent guy through the years that I ever saw play the position.

1981 Topps Joe Montana card.

1981 Topps Joe Montana card.

When I was with the Dolphins, we played the game over in London called The American Bowl. It was a preseason game but we practiced with each other all week. It was fun going toe to toe with Joe Montana. The 49ers offense was going one way and the Dolphins offense was going the other way, and we all did it just watching each other. It was great to watch Joe and how he handled himself and how he threw the ball. The anticipation, the reads, the progression, and of course, having Bill Walsh coaching is pretty good to have, too. I remember very vividly being there that week with Marino and Joe and that 49ers team. It was pretty cool being amongst that company.