vIQtory Podcast: Jon Jansen On NFL Career & Michigan

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On this episode of the vIQtory podcast we are joined by 11 year NFL Veteran (10 of those years with the Redskins) at Offensive Tackle, Captain of the 1997 Michigan National Championship team and currently the host of the “In the Trenches” podcast –  Jon Jansen. Jon joined us to talk, of course, little Michigan football but also to discuss multi-sport athletes, overcoming injuries and the story that is his journey as a pro athlete.

Follow Jon on Instagram and Twitter @JonJansen77 and be sure to catch his podcast which focuses on all things Michigan Football

 

 

Show Notes

Steve McGrath

Welcome to this episode of the victory podcast I am your host Steve McGrath alongside as always Mr. Chris Haddad. today we’re incredibly fortunate because we have another star-studded guest someone whose football resume is second to none mr. Jon Jansen.

Jon well first of all thank you so much for taking the time to come with us today

Jon Jansen

Thanks for having me!

Steve McGrath

I know for those of you who may not be familiar with Jon who if you couldn’t see on that eminence shirt bleeds blue and maize like no other let’s take it back a few steps

Jon was a three-sport athlete in high school from there went to university Michigan where 1997-1998 was a captain on both teams which means yes he did win a national title under coach Lokar was an all-american the following year in 98 from there gets drafted 37th overall in the 1999 draft to the Washington Redskins where he spent a decade has an 11 year career with that last year coming in Detroit. Looking in hindsight he’s named one of the 80 greatest Redskins of all time just last year in 2017 entered the state of Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. Jon now has his own podcast “in the trenches” where it’s focused on Michigan football and he does the pre and post game so Jon as if the resume didn’t speak for itself, I mean no one is doing as much as you are!

Jon Jansen

Well I I love the game of football and I love the University of Michigan so it’s for me when I retired from football my kids were in an age where you know, if you’re a football coach you know when you don’t you just don’t get to be a dad as much as I wanted to be, and so radio and TV was kind of where I got to stay involved in football. I’ve been doing the Michigan games now going on five years I’m on staff here in the athletic department and, it’s you know, my podcasts were we’re in the in the infant stages we’ve come out with about that tomorrow or I’m sorry Wednesday will be the the third episode that we’ve had and it’s been it’s been a lot of fun because I get to talk football I get to talk Michigan football I get to be around the guys here in a team and it’s an exciting time for me.

Steve McGrath

Jon I listen to the first podcast earlier today so for all of our listeners out there if you want insights from the players themselves the coaches themselves, this is what you need to go because it doesn’t get any better than first-hand information .That’s sort of you know the first question that I want to have for you is you know obviously you know you’re a huge part of the Michigan program now but let’s go back to when you’re 18 years old you know you are looking to do something for your college you know so how ultimately do you decide on Michigan what was that recruiting process like for you and how did you ultimately come to that decision?

Jon Jansen
Um for me it was it was simple when I became a sophomore/ junior in high school and and I was recruited earlier for basketball because just kind of how the sport works, I thought really all I wanted to do was to be able to get a scholarship so I could pay for my education. Never had I mean everybody has dreams of being a pro football player a pro basketball player but for a while those are what they are they’re dreams. I wanted to make sure that I had an opportunity to go to school get an education and be able to provide for my family moving forward. When I was being recruited for football there was you know I had Wisconsin and Michigan State and Notre Dame and Michigan, I wanted to stay in the Midwest and there was no bigger team for me than Michigan. If I was going to go there all I needed was was coach Moeller, who was our coach at the time, to just say hey you know we’d love you to come to play at Michigan and you know we’re gonna offer you a scholarship! He did October 2 1993 and it is one of the will always be one of the greatest days of my life because so much of what I do now, obviously I’m still at Michigan and I’m still involved in football, but so much of who I am was was determined by that decision by going to Michigan. Also, getting a chance to play for Moe and Lloyd and Mike my position coach Terry Malone Bobby Morris. I was amongst great men and I knew my parents were excited about it because you know you raise a kid from the moment they’re born until they’re 18 and and they you know they go off to college. And you’ll always be mom and dad to these kids but now you send them off to you know to college and they’re gonna be influenced by a lot of things. My parents have said it many times over the years we’re soul we were so glad and happy to send you to a group of men like they had at Michigan because we were comfortable that they were gonna you know finish the work that we had started.

Chris Haddad

so Jon you coming out of high school football baseball basketball track I mean you just didn’t play football right and at what six six three oh five is what you played that right so I mean that that stature be able to do all those things is incredible now you hear hardball talking all the time a multi-sport athlete how much does that mean to you being a multi-sport athlete

Jon Jansen

oh I think it’s critical. I think that there are things that you learn as a basketball player that you only learn as a basketball player and there are things you learn in each sport that are unique and specific to that sport. Now if you take an athlete that has learn all those different things in terms of how they move and and how they train and and how they prepare for games, all of a sudden now you get an athlete that’s a little bit different than some athletes that are just one sport players.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being a one sport player, I’m just a proponent of hey you know these these kids are just that they’re kids and sports are supposed to be fun. I had the best times of my life were when I was playing basketball, baseball, football, track,  because I was with my buddies I was having a good time doing what I love to do. If there’s a coach that says I only want you to focus on one sport and and you only play for that one season, you’re missing out on so much fun. The lessons that you learn not just about how your body moves are about training but competition you put yourself in a competitive environment as much as possible, then you learn how to win you learn how to win, you learn how to handle losses, you learn how to recover, you learn how to to come back when you’ve been down. All of those things that you learn during games and in training for different sports, can translate into when you do pick a sport and you go play at college those are lessons that are invaluable

Steve McGrath

so Jon we know that of course you did pick a sport you did go to football and you reach the pinnacle of success and then the 97 team and I’ve heard you say before that that team truly loved one another you guys played for the the guy that was lined up next to you so if we know that’s you know why you guys want a national title can you just talk a little bit about how you guys got to that stage because I feel like so many teams don’t even get a chance to reach that level of brotherhood

Jon Jansen

well you know we we had spent at Michigan a couple of years my first few years we were eight and four eight and four and when you go to a school like Michigan they’re in you and you get to be as junior senior you start thinking about what’s your legacy gonna be when you leave. We didn’t want it to be of a bunch of eight and four seasons we’re yeah okay we started out five and oh and and you know we always falter towards the end of the year. We had taken some lessons that we had learned over those the losses that we have had and talked about it. We would spend time in the offseason in this in winter and summer conditioning you know talking about why we lost those games. It wasn’t because it was never because we got beat by another team it was because we had either lost focus or we didn’t show up prepared. It was something that we did and we said in 97 we want to make sure that we show up for every game and and we give ourselves the best chance to win and it was it’s a sacrifice. I talked to these guys about it all the time there are certain sacrifices that you have to make to achieve certain goals. After a game you know after a big win yeah the thought is let’s go out and celebrate well you know what when you celebrate and you know if you’re 21 and you go out and have a couple of beers that affects how you train the next day.We said we were going to make the sacrifice,  you know we were going to go out and celebrate but we weren’t going to overindulge, we weren’t going to indulge at all, because that was a sacrifice that we made for five months. But for the rest of our lives we get to talk about what it meant to win a national championship there’s only been one national championship at Michigan in the last seventy years, and that’s ours. That’s a memory and that’s something that the fans don’t ever forget it’s something that that we as a team have never forgot and and I think it’s that it’s that group sacrifice that that also you know brought us that much closer together.

Steve McGrath

I don’t mean to skip over that the draft in your first few years in the league but you know when I look at your career you know I think it’s year five, you ultimately in the first preseason game you tear your Achilles, which is an injury that can just end a career out right. I just wanted to just a little bit about your mindset recovering from that going through the whole rehab process and ultimately getting yourself back to a level where you can play again

Jon Jansen

Well the the hardest thing about being hurt as a player and I had never been hurt up to that point – I mean you may break a finger or break a hand, but they’re all things that you can play through. You tear an Achilles and your seasons done there’s no hole that you’re gonna play that year. So for me it was you know when you’re in recovery you’re not around the guys as much as you would be you know. When guys are in meetings or they’re out on the field you know let’s face it you know we’re all athletes we’d love to have a good time funny stuff happens and you’re not in you know the inside jokes and those guys come in from from the practice field and they’re talking about something, you just always feel like an outsider no matter how much you’re around, you’re not in that group anymore. I think that’s probably the hardest thing to deal with because it’s just something that you never you’ve never been used to the the the recovery of the injury you know, and spending time in the training room in the weight room and making sure you give yourself a chance to get back to playing on the field. Honestly that was the easy part because you know when I was a professional athlete that was paid to do it but you have this drive that says I’m this is not how I’m gonna go out I want to go out you know on my terms. There are so few people that have that opportunity to go out on their terms and you know and I didn’t, you know, at the end of my career, I didn’t go out on my terms because you get released and and nobody signs you you still want to play. But you know I had I had a great run and from from that moment on I really got a chance to appreciate even more the privilege that I had playing at Michigan. I’ve also got the opportunity to play in the NFL and play football for as long as I did. Some of these guys now think that it’s their right and they deserve that. It’s not it’s a privilege and you got to take advantage of every every moment that you have on the field, because it’s some day you know you’re gonna want to play and and nobody’s gonna nobody’s going to ask you.

Steve McGrath

Yeah I can imagine but you know a couple of things you just said there about appreciating the opportunity and there’s injuries that you can play through. Well you rebound from the Achilles to have your only all-pro season in the NFL the following year so you didn’t just come back to the level you were at before, you would now hit a new high and for those of you that that don’t understand, Jon’s nickname is Rock. He’s the epitome of toughness. You went to that o5 campaign with two broken thumbs you weren’t all-pro with two casts on your hands, so no one can say anything about playing through injuries like you can. I mean the fact that you came back to the level that you did, you know is more than a testament of what it sort of takes to get back on top battling back from an injury while not being able to play through them.

Jon Jansen

yeah it was –  that was a tough year and when you have injuries, that are just that they’re just injuries – you’re not hurt. You’re not gonna be out there’s there’s a certain part in your in your mind that you’ve got to go to and say you know what, even though this hurts I could still help my team win. Also the the benefit of having my hands casted was I knew I was never gonna be called for holding! It was they basically gave me two weapons, I got a chance numb up my hands they put casts on them and I did they just gave me two to clubs to use.

Chris Haddad 

So I just want to go more of the coaching parts so you played under Turner, Schottenheimer, Spurrier,Gibbs, Zorn – what was it like playing for all those coaches all those years? Also, what’s it like learning new schemes but ultimately the personalities of the coaches too? What was that like going through that process of a new coach

Jon Jansen

well quite honestly as a player it sucked. You know and you always have a new offense, you have new terminology. The plays are generally pretty much the same, but now you’ve got to assimilate this new playbook the terminology and what you’re calling something into something different. So at the time, you know it wasn’t a great situation to be always turn over head coaches, but one thing I did learn was different ways to coach, a lot of different ways that that you can  run a zone block, run a gap block and you know there’s always these little intricacies . Then by the time you get to you know, year, eight, nine, ten of your NFL career, you can incorporate a lot of those things to make you a better player. I use a lot of those things that I learned over those ten years that I was with the Redskins, now as a broadcaster because I was exposed to so many different offenses. We had the West Coast offense, we had a pro style offense, we had all these different things that really allow me now to look back on that experience and use that in my broadcaster booth

Chris Haddad

Yeah and that’s something we always preach here at vIQtory too,  when we’re teaching the sport of football, there’s no one cookie cutter way to learn football. I think kids that are at a younger age think –  oh my coach taught me this that’s it.  I think it’s easier to learn football when you have that open mind and especially for you, I’m sure you had to have an open mind because a coach may call this call, when this happens…

Jon Jansen

Yeah it does and and you know when you have that open mind and when I first got in the NFL I thought well this is what I did at Michigan so it’s gonna work here. I think a lot of the players as rookies or even second-year players struggle with the idea of trying new things and at the NFL level. I was very lucky to have especially, my career, good offensive line coaches. Russ Grimm was my line coach for my first two years, Joel Perry was my line coach when we had Marty Schottenheimer as our head coach. They would tell me hey as long as you’re getting the job done I’m good with it. The moment that you stop playing well,  is when I’m gonna ask you to change something. But they would also say – this is working, that’s great, but why don’t you try this. If it was a different techniquem they would they would allow me in practice to try the new technique. If I got beat, they weren’t jumping down my throat saying you know you’re not going to play if you can’t make this block or you’re not going play on Sunday if you don’t perform better. They allowed me the opportunity to try new things, so that on Sunday I was better. If you’ve got a good coach that allows you and exposes you to new ideas and says try this, then modifies it as it’s going and doesn’t use it against you – that’s that’s something I think is an absolute must for especially for young coaches

Chris Haddad

I’m sure that played right into your strengths, keeping that flexibility, saying I’m not comfortable doing this. I did this maybe two coaches ago and it worked for me then, can I go back to it. It’s good for a coach to be open minded for his players, and that’s probably why you had a lengthy career…

Jon Jansen
Yeah and and let’s face it when it comes down to in the NFL, that you either get the job done or you don’t on sundays. If don’t, they find somebody else…

Chris Haddad

so Jon you mentioned earlier Russ Grimm –  I want to talk a little bit about the Hogs and what has started in the late 70s & 80s with the linemen Russ Grimm, Mark Schlereth, etc. Coming into the Redskins, was that the hog mindset still around  when you got there as far as that tough, gritty you know –  put you on your back mindset of the linemen that the Hogs had with the Redskins?

Jon Jansen

Absolutely and and that’s one of the things I loved about going to Washington. You know there’s not a lot of great traditions in the NFL because of free agency, but you know the Redskins had their their own marching band, they had their own you know fan club and and they had a great tradition. One of the great traditions they had was for the offensive line. Coming from Michigan, where we as well had a great tradition of offensive line going, there it was it felt a little bit like College GameDay still when we played on Sundays, because you can look up and see the band playing and there were cheers. That to me that’s what the whole football experience is about is having those traditions. Having Russ be my first line coach and I think it’s one of the funny things is the Hogs were labeled the Hogs, it’s because they were the biggest o-line. I think Russ told me that the heaviest he ever was, was like 275 or 280. That just shows you the different you know the different eras of football and when people start comparing Russ to Jake Long or to a different player, they try to come up with who was the greatest ever it’s it’s almost impossible because the eras of football are so different

Chris Haddad

I mean essentially look back 30 40 years ago guys are getting much bigger. Look back in the 1940s, 1950s linemen weren’t as big as they are now today. What do you think that has t do with? Is it just the natural evolution of the position growing or is it more of the way kids of training nowadays?

Jon Jansen

Well I think it’s it everything starts with money. You look back to when when Russ and those guys were playing that was their second job.They didn’t get paid enough to live year round just by playing football. Early on in their career so they had jobs in the offseason. Now all of a sudden when when the salaries get to a point where okay yeah this is a professional athlete that’s all he does now, in the offseason you start training instead of going to a different job. You start watching what you eat a little bit more, finding out what nutrition wise, how your body recovers. You get a chance to recover and I think there’s so much science behind how kids train in high school, how they train in college, how they eat and at those different levels. Also how their bodies are developing, and it’s just a natural evolution. I wouldn’t say the position has changed but due to technology and science I think that’s why they’re getting bigger.

Chris Haddad

Especially a big part is that you can measure essentially everything that goes into your body. It’s pretty remarkable and pretty incredible. I want to talk a little about the o-line. You played Chris Samuels and guys that made you essentially a dominant offensive line, what do you think it was, in your mind as an offensive line, that that makes a good offensive line? Is it just hanging out together, working in the offseason going over schemes, getting your steps down together? Is there one one thing in particular that makes a good offensive line really shine the NFL?

Jon Jansen

well I think for any position in the NFL you’ve got to have great chemistry. I think it’s most important at the offensive line position because you’ve got to have five guys doing the same thing all the same time. If you got one guy that is a step behind or on a different page, then you you can’t be successful as an offensive line. If we’ve got a run play to the left and I’m the right tackle and I do something completely different, my guy makes a tackle. You know, two, three yards in the backfield but if you get everybody going in and we used to call it elephants on a train. If you get everybody going in one direction, chances are you’re at least doing something right. Then it’s about developing that chemistry and and wanting things. We wanted to be, Chris and I, talked about being the best tackle tandem in the NFL. We talked about how many sacks we did we and didn’t we want to allow. Seven over a season was was going to be a good number (whatever it was), and you set goals for yourself , there’s no group that Chris’s success was dependent on on my success. Cory Raymer or Casey Ryback (our centers) are Chris and I success were were directly related to their ability to communicate who the Mike linebacker was, where the blitzes are coming from how we how we adjust protections. All of those things are are vital to becoming a good offensive line

Steve McGrath

So Jon as we get towards the last stage of your NFL career, you have the ability to come back home and play for the Detroit Lions. What did it mean to you to be able to play professionally at the end of your career, back home.

Jon Jansen

I was awesome! I mean I was it was something I wanted to do my whole career. I never really got the free agency and I you know I’m very grateful to Dan Snyder for the way that he treated me and my family while I was in Washington, not allowing me to get the free agency. However when I finally had the opportunity and Detroit said hey, well you know let’s see what we can do here, it was it was great because I grew up 20 minutes from the stadium. My parents were able to come to all the games, my high school football coaches, my basketball coaches, my high school buddies and even people I knew in Ann Arbor. I mean Ford Field is is only about 35-40 minutes from here, so you know,  I was able to get back to a couple of Michigan games on Saturdays and that meant a lot to me as well. Being able to play at home is a special feeling

Chris Haddad

Jon your parents, they were both teachers, so how much did they have an impact post football life as far –  Did you know you wanted to announce. How much did they have an impact of what you want to do later on after football

Jon Jansen

My parents have have always had a heavy hand in everything that I’ve done throughout my life. They were the most amazing parents that a kid can hope for. Quite honestly they’re the best grandparents that my kids could ever hope for. They always set an example and neither of them knew anything about or much about football. They didn’t know much about radio or TV or what I’m doing now, but what they instilled in me was the ability to work hard to appreciate the value of a hard day’s work. Appreciate the things that you have and understand that  you know it’s good to set goals it’s good to reach for those goals and that you can achieve those. When I was done playing I always remember conversations that I had with my parents. You’re not just retired, there gonna be a next step and what it’s going to be and or a few years it was just being dad and being home with my wife and that’s still a huge part of what I’m doing. But you know as the kids grow up and they’re when school starts they’re  off to school all day long I sit there and twiddle my thumbs. Now I’ve got a great opportunity and beautiful thing about radio is for the last couple years a lot of the radio shows I did from home. The beautiful thing about the internet that, you know you can sound like I’m sitting in winston-salem or Seattle or Detroit it didn’t matter. You can do a lot of what we do from the comfort of your own home

Steve Mcgrath
you know you do retire you do now have the position that you have with

University of Michigan you know what’s it like for you being so involved in the program that gave you everything in terms of a career I mean like I said you know one believes harder for Michigan than you and no one has the Michigan swag that you do if you ever see Jon on the premium post came with his jackets

Jon Jansen

you know for me it’s it’s this place sometimes you know you wander around or you know when I was first retired I work

for the Big Ten Network and you know there’s just a certain place where you know you get a sweet spot in your life and every time I was I’ve been around Michigan football whether it was in recruiting as a player when I would come back there’s a great tradition here it’s always felt like home and one of the beautiful things is like when I when I came back to work here now and by the way when when anybody says you know that I’m currently employed by the University of Michigan it gets me really excited because it’s always been a dream of mine to again be back here but you know there are people that have been here for 30 40 years and I’m working with people that that I worked with as a player you know Dave a block one of our associate ADEs was you know fresh in 97 and he’s now he’s a guy that I work on a daily basis with in terms of communicating with the football players and getting guests on the show and and talking about Michigan football so there’s relationships that I’ve had here for 20 or 25 years that have evolved over time from student athlete to alumni to co-worker that is it’s a special feeling

Steve Mcgrath

very cool and Jon before we jump into the gauntlet I have to ask what so what’s the outlook for Michigan this year with what’s the final win record for them I’m sure they’re gonna go undefeated 15 and 0

Jon Jansen

there’s no question that’s it so they can championship we go to Indianapolis and we probably face Wisconsin then we go to the the playoffs and and whoever shows up will be willing to beat so it’s no it’s I’m very excited about this football season because we’ve got we’ve got it we had a very young team the last couple of years and we’ve got some some fresh coaches Ed Warner we got a new all offensive line coach and he brings a lot of great experience to that group Jim McElwain former coach at Florida is is our receivers coach pep Hamilton who was here last year has NFL experience and obviously Jim Harbaugh brings a certain excitement to the program and then on defense you know I mean Don Brown if you I’m sure you guys maybe saw a little bit of it but I know a lot of our fans saw the Amazon Prime series and they know what he means to this program and the coaches that we have on the defensive side of the ball it really excites me because we’re a year older we’ve got a great competition at quarterback the offensive line is coming along we’ve got you know we’re really good at all the skilled positions and our defense was last year I think they ended up ranked number three two years ago we wereranked number one so we put all the pieces together and and you know we start off with a win against Notre Damethat’s all we can ask for well I know the coach Harbaugh doesn’t like to talk about any particular quarterbacks that’s why I’m going to refrain myself from asking about it but why do

Steve McGrath

we’ll wrap this up with the gauntlet as promised so hope you’re ready gonna hit you with a couple hard questions so tell me what’s most important the number one no or the number one D number one

Jon Jansen

Oh yeah score points man

Steve McGrath
that’s right now I learned that you a little bit of an outdoorsman so if you could only do one is it gonna be hunting or fishing fishing no question it’s it’s easier to take my kids I’ve taken them both and they can talk in the boat and it’s not a big deal they talking to deer blind and it it sucks

Steve McGrath
shootout or a defensive battle

Jon Jansen

Oh defensive battle events nobody I want to be able to you know to get in there and hit somebody in the mouth and I don’t I don’t want any kind of offensive shootout because that means we’re throwing a ball over the place and it’s always more fun to run black than it is to pass block it should have known no

Steve McGrath
there a coach or a team that you know regardless of level you wish that you would have had a chance to play for or play with you know when I watched the the Hall of Fame inductions I played in obviously in the NFC East and we played Philly all the time and I think Brian Dawkins was an unbelievable football player I thought he was a great leader I would have loved to have had him as a teammate very cool yet I love to crawl uh to uh give his speech there’s all Brian Dawkins that’s exactly he took that stage like he played every game with an intensity with a focus with a purpose and and again that’s why I would have loved to have had him as a teammate yeah of course all right so I’m pretty sure

Steve McGrath

I know the answer to this but I’ll ask anyway spread off into our power run offense?

Jon Jansen
not a competition let’s put the ball and run it back hands and tell him right the run run right behind Jansen also

Steve McGrath

I heard that you’re a little bit of a country music fan so right now give me your top one to handful of artists that yeah you really like?

Jon Jansen
oh boy Eric Church should probably be number one of it and and I’ve got to go you know classic I know that you know one of them is dead one of them still playing but Willie and Waylon you can’t beat it

Steve McGrath

and last but not least what’s most important the players of the scheme?

Jon Jansen
all the players the players make all the difference you can you can have the greatest scheme in the world but if you don’t have guys that can execute it you don’t have a group of players that know how to work hard how to you know grit their teeth when things don’t go well you got nothing so it’s all about the players awesome well

Steve McGrath

Jon thank you so much for coming on with us and again in the trenches podcast the pre and post game from Michigan anything Michigan related Jon Janssen is your man and Jon just so we can put this out there as well where can people follow you on social media

Jon Jansen

my twitter handle is at JonJansen77 I’m sitting with Instagram and you know hit me up with any questions I love talking to fans so it’s it’s as as you guys know this is an interactive game so you know and let’s let’s get ready for a great 2018 college football season we can’t wait so there you go kid Jon Janssen up with your questions thanks a lot Jon

 

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