For Jon Runyan, the son of the former Eagles all-pro offensive tackle of the same name, the college decision was easy.
“Whenever it was Saturday, we had Michigan on TV, so I’d always grew up a fan and always wanted to go there,” Runyan, a former St. Joseph’s Prep star and now a junior guard on the Wolverines, said this week in advance of his team’s visit to No. 2 Penn State on Saturday night.
Runyan chuckled at the memory of when he talked with his offensive line coach the summer following his sophomore year at the Prep about where he wanted to play college football.
“I told him Michigan, and that was when we were at Ohio State’s football camp,” he said, referring to the Wolverines’ archrival. “A week later, I traveled to Michigan for their camp, got offered midway through their camp, and that pretty much did it. I wanted to get college done, and I was able to do it pretty much stress-free.”
The 6-foot-4, 298-pound Runyan, whose family resides in Moorestown, has played in four of Michigan’s six games this season in a reserve role. Head coach Jim Harbaugh said he is in the team’s seven-man offensive line rotation and called him “very athletic, a very focused, determined guy.”
Runyan was a part of two PIAA state championship teams at St. Joe’s Prep, where one of his teammates was Penn State cornerback John Reid. He said he and Reid, who is sitting out this season with a knee injury, communicate “every once in a while.”
“We played football together in eighth grade,” he said. “We got to play with each other all throughout high school and now we’re playing against each other in the Big Ten.”
Runyan said he and Reid would get rides with each other for the daily drive to the Prep.
“There was a group of us,” he said. “It was such a special environment. A lot of people from all over the tri-state area were there so it was exciting. Playing for coach [Gabe] Infante was incredible. We won a lot of games, made a lot of memories.”
Runyan also enjoyed good memories as the son of an NFL star. He was born in Houston during the last season of the Oilers’ franchise before it became the Tennessee Titans. The family moved to South Jersey after the elder Runyan signed with the Eagles, and remained after he finished a nine-year career there in 2008.
Runyan, who called himself a fan of Philadelphia sports teams, said he attended every Eagles home game except for those on Monday nights, and enjoyed time hanging out with his dad.
“I remember whenever I was with him, getting groceries or going to Home Depot or whatever, people would recognize him,” he said. “I thought it was awesome that my dad was this big public figure. I looked up to him a lot and just hoped that I could somewhat be like him someday.”
If there’s one area where Runyan doesn’t want to follow his father, it’s politics. Jon Runyan served two terms in Congress but passed on running for a third, and his son believes the decision was made after he was called away from a family vacation to return to Washington. Runyan now works as NFL vice president of policy and rules administration.
Runyan said his mother and his father will attend Saturday night’s “White Out” game. He first saw a “White Out” when he traveled to Penn State as a freshman.
“They’ve got like 107,000 fans, big stadium, loud, night game, White Out, crazy environment,” he said. “It doesn’t disappoint. It’s crazy but you can’t focus on it because it can swallow you up. We’ve got to keep a level head and stay focused.”