PITMAN – More than just about anyone else, Ron Jaworski understands.
As the quarterback who led the Philadelphia Eagles to the 1980 Super Bowl he’s experienced the adulation that comes with being a football star in the Delaware Valley. As a resident and successful businessman since his playing days ended, he’s had countless opportunities to interact with football fans all throughout the area and he knows they are as devout a bunch as you will find anywhere.
He also knows one more thing.
“Philly loves a winner,” Jaws said.
Obssessed? You bet.
Sure the vast majority of this devotion is directed at the Eagles. Not many calls to talk radio to discuss Jaworski’s team, the Philadelphia Soul, but the team has a loyal following. Average attendance at the Wells Fargo Center is nearly 10,000 according to Arena Football League statistics and that is about 1,700 more than last year.
Philly fans do love a winner and the Soul, defending Arena Bowl champions, are 11-1 and, with two games left in the regular season, have already clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Keep winning and the Arena Bowl will be in Philadelphia.
So when Jaworski, principal owner of the Soul, took the microphone and addressed the crowd at Total Turf Experience, the team’s headquarters since March, on Thursday evening at the Philadelphia Soul Town Takeover presented by Virtua, he did so knowing how important it is to give back.
“This is a great event, we’ve been doing it for a few years now,” Jaworski said. “It gives the town the opportunity to get up close with the players in a fun environment and for us to thank them for all the support they’ve given us throughout the year. The number of people who come out has grown every year and that is great.”
It is hard to say how many attended the three-hour event, with people coming and going, but the Total Turf parking lot was packed all night and people were spread out all over the complex. There were a handful of food trucks in front of the building doing a steady business. Inside the building there were tables set up with information for adults and games for kids, manned by members of the Virtua marketing department and other staff volunteers. Virtua lends its support to such endeavors because they promote community awareness and it believes in the value of team sports, fair play, and sportsmanship.
“Jerry (McGough) and Bob (Loftus) have absolutely exceeded all expectations,” said Jaworski, speaking of the two of the Total Turf principals. “They’ve worked with us in every way possible, building coaches offices and executive offices. The people at Virtua have been phenomenal as well. The support they provide for the football players is as good a medical care as you’re going to find anywhere.”
But the main attraction, without question, was the indoor turf field, where the Soul players could be found interacting with the scores of kids. Everywhere you turned their were wide-eyed kids talking, taking pictures, playing dodge ball with the players. Everyone was relaxed and enjoying the evening.
“It’s a great opportunity to give back and talk to the fans who support us,” said Soul defensive back Dwayne Ellis. “I remember what it was like when I was a kid so to be able to meet people here in a family environment like this is just great.”
Following Jaworski’s address to the crowd, Soul head coach Clint Dolezel organized some drills with kids and players teaming up. After stretching, kids lined up as receivers, putting moves on Soul defenders to catch passers from the Soul quarterbacks. The players were engaged, the kids were having a blast and parents were busy snapping pictures.
“The people who support us are always our top priority and this is a great opportunity to meet them,” said Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh. “The Town Out brings everybody together. It gives us a chance to meet the fans and show them appreciation for their support. For us to come out here and interact with the fans, it gives something tangible in return for their commitment to us. This gives us an opportunity to show them how grateful we are.”
Looking at all the smiling faces walking around Total Turf Thursday night, the Town Takeover was undoubtedly a huge success.