GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jon Runyan Jr. was in the middle of a text exchange with his agent, Ken Sarnoff, when his phone screen switched to an incoming call. Unfortunately for the draft hopeful from the University of Michigan, his texting thumb just happened to be in the area where the bright red “decline” button illuminated.
A panic came over him.
“I declined a call from Green Bay, Wisconsin,” Runyan said. “I tried to call back and my call didn’t go through, and I had no idea what I just did.”
Only seconds later, they called back.
Runyan seemed destined for the NFL. He’s following the path of his father, Jon Sr., a 14-year NFL veteran at tackle who started 192 games and made a Pro Bowl — and also played at Michigan.
“He’s always been really hands-off with everything,” Jon Jr. said. “He’s always been there as a resource for me, kind of an invaluable resource. Something that not a lot of people get, obviously. Like he just told me a couple minutes ago, ‘The work is just starting.’ Everything I’ve done throughout my career has been reset. Now, fortunately I have this opportunity to go out to Green Bay and prove myself at the next level, and I couldn’t be more excited about that.”
Jon Jr. was in seventh grade when his dad retired from the NFL in 2009, he regularly hung out in the locker room and was even in the stands for an iconic Eagles-Packers game — the Packers’ collapse on fourth-and-26 in a 2003 NFC divisional game in Philadelphia.
“Going in the locker room, I got to be around guys, Hall of Famers like Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook, Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens,” he said. “Those guys really changed the Eagles franchise and made it into what it is now. Just idolizing them and seeing how much work I put in kind of through the viewpoint that I got, being around them and looking up to them and my father and one day wanting to be them, that helped add motivation and passion and drive to what I was doing. Growing up with my father in the NFL has been a blessing. I know he’s looking at me right now, and he’s happy.”
Unlike his father, Runyan is likely to play guard — not tackle — for the Packers. He also said he has no interest in a post-football career like that of his dad, who served two terms in Congress representing New Jersey’s 3rd District and now works for the NFL as vice president of policy and rules administration.
“He served two terms as a United States rep in New Jersey; it’s just an unbelievable achievement,” he said. “Honestly, I’m just so amazed that he was able to do that. … My dad, he’s really big on public service. That’s the thing he really liked about being a representative, but he did not enjoy the politics side of being a congressman; that’s why he got out of it. You could see the stress on his face whenever he’d come home after a month or two. He loved helping people, but he really did not like dealing with all the politics of it. I just think I’ll observe politics from afar, for sure.”