By Brian Yauger
Ron Jaworski is a Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Famer and former ESPN broadcaster, but there’s one other thing he wears like a badge of honor: being a graduate of Youngstown State University.
Jaworski returned to his alma mater Friday to give a lecture about “preparing for a life in sports media,” a path Jaworski began walking in 1976 when he was the sports director of a morning show in Los Angeles while playing for the Rams.
His most notable stint in sports media was the five years he spent as the color commentator for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.
The former Eagles quarterback started his talk with a laugh, teasing a student in the front row wearing a New York Giants T-shirt. Throughout the speech, he continued to give the student playful jabs.
“I just have one question,” Jaworski said to open his lecture. “How did you allow this New York Giants fan to sit in the front row? My arch rivals. At least it’s not a Lawrence Taylor jersey you’re wearing.”
Jaworski credits former Penguins coach Dwight “Dike” Beede for convincing him to attend YSU. Or, more accurately, Beede convinced Jaworski’s father.
“When I was recruited by Dike Beede, he recruited my dad,” Jaworski said. “I drove down with my dad from Lackawanna [New York], and I spent time with some of the other assistant coaches, toured the campus and all the facilities. The head coach worked my dad over. He convinced my dad that this was the place to go.”
Looking back, he couldn’t be happier that Beede convinced his father that he should become a Penguin.
“Youngstown State not only played a significant part in my success as a football player, but more importantly, they played a major part of my success as a person,” he said.
Jaworski told a story of how much preparation he did going into a week of “Monday Night Football.” Citing pronunciation as one of the most important aspects of his job, Jaworski referenced Packers defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila as a reason a person needs to practice pronunciation.
“I prepared about 90 hours a week, but you’re not just preparing for football, you prepare for everything,” Jaworski said. “Every Thursday morning, we had a person at ESPN and we’d go down the list with flip cards.”
During his speech, he recalled a time when he was in the same position as the students in the crowd. Former NFL great Frank Gifford, who also moved into broadcasting after his playing career and was a staple on “Monday Night Football” from 1971 to 1997, visited YSU while Jaworski was attending and left a lasting impact on him.
“I was sitting out in the audience listening to Frankie and the stories that he told about his playing days and his career on ‘Monday Night Football,’” Jaworski said. “I was motivated by Frank Gifford. I was enamored with Frank Gifford. In the back of my mind, all the things he talked about to me are a lot of things I’m talking about to you.”
After sharing his wisdom with the crowd and answering questions about the business, Jaworski took photos with and signed autographs for the attending students.