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Three-Sport High School Athlete Jon Jansen Discusses How His Football Career Began

Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.

Before his 11-year NFL career, Jon Jansen almost quit football in high school. 

Jansen was a three-sport athlete at Clawson High School in Michigan.

"I just loved to play sports," he said. "I had a passion for all of them."

But he almost quit football to focus on basketball after his freshman year. 

"As a freshman, I started for the varsity basketball team," Janesen said. "My goal at that time was, 'How do I get to go to college and how do I get it paid for?' I started getting letters and some calls for basketball. So I thought I should focus on that.

"Before the season, I was walking around the mall with my girlfriend. I said, 'I’m going to go into this Foot Locker, and if they have my size cleats, I’ll play this year.' And they happened to have them, size 15, so I played football."

It didn’t take too long for the college football scouts to see what some of the basketball scouts already had. And while he had some offers from mid-major basketball schools, Jansen started to get offers from big-time football programs as well.

Jansen was sold once his dream school, Michigan, called. As a Wolverine, Jansen won a national championship in 1997 and was the Big 10 Offensive Linemen of the Year in 1998.

Washington selected him in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft. He played 10 seasons in D.C. before finishing his career in Michigan with the Detroit Lions in 2009. 

"Outside of the city of Detroit and southeast Michigan, a lot of people wouldn’t understand why you would want to go play for Detroit," Jansen said. "But I wanted to be drafted by Detroit. I loved my time in Washington, too. But to play for my hometown team and go back to Michigan was always my dream.

"My high school coaches, my friends, my parents were all able to come to see me play. It was a great way to finish my career."

During his pro career, Jansen did some radio and TV work and had an idea that working in sports media would be part of his post-NFL career.

"I knew I wanted to stay around the game," Jansen said. "So my choices were going into the coaching route or to the media side of things. I decided to go the media route. To be able to stay around the game, to be around the guys and be in the locker rooms is something I wanted."

Jansen has worked his way to being a host of the popular 97.1 The Ticket morning show from Monday to Friday in Detroit. And this fall, Jansen will be the radio color commentator for Michigan football games. "I’ve done pre-game and post-game shows, and I’m looking forward to doing the game on a fun-time basis this year."

Photo: AP/G. Newman Lowrance


  • NFL Players and Legends
  • High School Football