Philadelphia is a city known for its passionate, loud, and often obnoxious fanbase. Its athletes are normally thought of as blue-collar guys who give it their all in every opportunity that have—much like the fictional boxer Rocky Balboa from the Philly-based Rocky series.
Many current and past athletes represent Philly: Brian Dawkins, Chase Utley, Chuck Bednarik, Dr.J— but perhaps none more so than Jon Runyan, the longtime offensive tackle for the Eagles.
A 13-year pro, Runyan has been a rock as a right tackle, establishing himself as one of the premier offensive linemen in the NFL over the last decade. He's started 192 consecutive regular-season games, the longest current streak of any lineman in football. In fact, it's the third-longest streak of any position player in the NFL, behind just Brett Favre (272) and Derrick Brooks (208).
Runyan was drafted out of the University of Michigan in the fourth round of 1996 by the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans). As a second-year pro, he became a full-time starter. In a game in late '98, he held Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White without a sack in White's last home game in Green Bay.
Runyan helped the Titans to the Super Bowl in '99, starting all 16 games in the regular-season and all four in the postseason. For this, he earned second-team AP All-Pro honors. Following the season, Runyan signed with the Eagles, where has has remained ever since.
While in Philly, Runyan has had the all-important honor of blocking the rival Giants' future Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan twice per season. Their battle in the trenches has become an NFL classic, as the two faced off against each other a total of 17 times before Strahan retired following the '07 season.
Runyan, who is known to have some difficulty with speed rushers, struggled initially against Strahan, as he gave up 5.5 sacks in two games in their '01 meetings. Since then, he has more than held his own, as he has held Strahan without a sack in six of their last 11 meetings. In all, Strahan's Giants hold a slight edge over Runyan's Eagles, posting a 9-8 record. Strahan has totaled 14.5 sacks against Runyan in those games, an impressive total, but also impressive for Runyan, considering he's facing arguably the best defensive end of this post-Reggie White era.
Their matchups are a lot like typical NFC East matchups—rough, extremely competitive, and sometimes dirty. Strahan has always insisted that Runyan holds him way too much, but it doesn't always get called. And you know what? It's probably true.
Runyan is often thought of as a dirty player. Perhaps that's why he has only been earned one Pro Bowl selection in all his years—not because he's not deserving, but because he garners a reputation of being a dirty player.
Runyan always maintains that it's not holding unless the officials penalize it, and that's true also. Runyan may play dirty at times, but he's also one of the most competitive and passionate football guys you could ever meet. His love for football is genuine—there is no other reason that he would choose to play the majority of a season ('07) with a broken tailbone, even after the Eagles were eliminated from playoff competition. Oh, and he did all this while not committing a single penalty in any game all year.
Runyan is one of just five Eagles to play all ten years under current head coach Andy Reid. And while the Eagles have had a handful of Pro Bowl offensive linemen this decade—Tra Thomas, Shawn Andrews, Jermane Mayberry—no one has been as consistently good as Runyan.
His teams have been to the playoffs eight times in the last ten years, including six conference championship games. He's started all 21 playoff games. He's earned a handful of awards—as he's been named to the All-Madden Team (2001), the Pro Bowl (2002), and selected as the Eagles' offensive MVP (2005).
He's played in more playoff games in the past ten years than anyone in football. And he's a lineman. More than Tom Brady (18). More than any of his longtime Eagle teammates—Thomas, Dawkins, Akers (17). More than Adam Vinatieri (18). More than Asante Samuel (16).
Runyan is a talented blocker, and he's at his best when he's run blocking. A Sports Illustrated Poll last year revealed that Jon Runyan blocking on a screen pass is one of the scariest things in the NFL. He and Shawn Andrews (when he's healthy) form a dynamic right guard/right tackle duo.
Runyan is one of those guys who teams just love to have on their line. In Tennessee, he blocked for Eddie George's three straight 1,200-yard rushing seasons. And in Philly, he has helped the Eagles rank in the top ten in the league in total offense in four of the last five seasons.
He's also smart. Last year, in a game against 12-1 Dallas late in the season, All-Pro running back Brian Westbrook took a knee at the one-yard line to run out the clock and preserve a 10-6 win. The idea behind that? None other than Jon Runyan, the wise vet, always looking for a way to help his team.
Not only is he a man of wisdom, but Runyan is a fan favorite as well. Every Tuesday after the Eagles game, he appears on Comcast's Daily News Live, hosted by Michael Barkhan. Win or loss, he's there and willing to discuss the game.
Runyan signed a three-year deal before the '06 season, which makes him a free agent after this year. At the time, Runyan had seen he hopes this is his last contract and that he planned to retire as an Eagle. But at the level he is playing, the 35-year old Runyan looks to have several more years in him. Runyan lost ten pounds before the season, cutting his playing weight down to 320, and his run blocking skills are as good as ever.
Look at this past NFC Championship against the Cardinals. Runyan barely practiced all week leading up to the game because of injury. He probably shouldn't have even played. But he did. And remember when McNabb threw the pick and DeSean Jackson forced the fumble, giving the Eagles the ball back? Who do you think recovered it? Big Jon Runyan.
The Eagles under Andy Reid have a history of breaking ties with starters over the age of 30, and Runyan is well beyond 30. But I think the Eagles will do everything they can to have him back in Philly. At least, I sure hope so.