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NFL Evolution - Second Act: Former Lineman Jon Runyan Thriving in Congress

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By Bill Bradley

As an offensive lineman in the NFL, Jon Runyan was known more for his streak of 190 consecutive starts with the Houston Oilers and the Philadelphia Eagles than his politics. Then again, he was known as one of the league's dirtiest players in a few polls by his peers.

Somehow, two years after retiring from the San Diego Chargers because of a knee injury in 2009, Runyan had won a congressional seat by election in New Jersey.

"I was fortunate to play nine years in Philadelphia," said Runyan, who was profiled in the first part of this week's Second Act series on "NFL AM." The series of profiles will run through Friday.

"It's really something that I became part of the community. I really decided to jump into politics because I thought it was an extension of what I was doing off the football field. I really take this job as community service and trying to help people."

Runyan, a Republican who represents New Jersey's third district, is the fourth NFL player to serve in Congress, besides Jake Kemp, Steve Largent and Heath Shuler.

He has thrust himself into his second career. He is part of the House Armed Services Committee, the House Veterans Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.

The first bill to pass under his sponsorship was a cost-of-living adjustment for disabled veterans. It was a direct result of his work on the Veterans Committee. He said it was signed into law by President Barack Obama on the former NFL player's birthday.

He said the recovery from Hurricane Sandy last year in his district was one of the toughest challenges he has faced as a Congressman.

"It was hard to keep people's focus -- especially here in Congress -- for the need for disaster assistance," Runyan said. "I tell people that the tourism industry on the Jersey shore is a $34 billion dollar industry that usually raises their eyebrows a little bit."

Runyan was proud to say the tourist attractions in his district, including the boardwalks are open again.

"I can tell you the one thing that is different when you actually go down there is it smells like fresh lumber," he said. "It's a little bit different than what most people are used to."

Runyan has to deal with more than just the divide between Republicans and Democrats in Congress. His district is divided among Eagles and New York Giants fans.

"I just light-heartedly walk up to them and I literally pat them on the back and say, "I'm sorry to hear you're a Giants fan, but we all have personality flaws,' " Runyan said. "I just walk away and they usually get a chuckle out of it."


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