By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
It didn’t take Jon Ritchie long to start his post-NFL career, it just wasn’t anything he had imagined.
Now a dozen years after his last NFL season, Ritchie is back where his career ended, in Philadelphia, as the mid-day host of a sports talk show on 94 WIP radio.
Ritchie, a fullback for the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles over a seven-year NFL career, spent most of his final season, 2004, on injured reserve for the Eagles. He was released at the end of training camp in 2005 and his next career began.
“I started (broadcasting) NFL Europe games the spring after I was finished playing,’’ Ritchie said of his career in the media. “I was doing some things for CN8, some Atlantic 10 games. The Atlantic 10 became the CAA (Colonial Athletic Association) and I did games when (Baltimore Ravens quarterback) Joe Flacco was at Delaware and (former Eagles and 49ers head coach) Chip Kelly was at New Hampshire.
“Later I was going up to Manhattan to do Cold Pizza on ESPN. Then they moved it to Bristol (Connecticut) and that grew into working up in Bristol and doing studio shows for about four years, or so.”
None of that was in Ritchie’s plans when he was leading the way for Pro Bowl running backs Charlie Garner with the Raiders and Brian Westbrook with the Eagles. Like a lot of players, he never thought beyond those playing days.
“I was very one track,’’ Ritchie said. “I thought I could play forever. I thought I could will myself to play forever. Then, my body just stopped cooperating.’’
Ritchie, unknowingly, began his second career during his first one when he provided insight on both local television and radio in his final seasons.
“Fortunately, I was asked to talk about football on a few occasions and people in a position that mattered thought I was good enough and they wanted to hear more,’’ he said.
So, from NFL Europe to the CAA, to his four years at ESPN to NBC Sports, to the NFL Network, Ritchie ran the media gamut. Then last October he found his way back to Philadelphia and talk-show radio.
Philadelphia radio is dominated by Eagles talk, even during the NFL offseason, but there is still some time for the NBA’s 76ers, the NHL’s Flyers and MLB’s Phillies.
“We do a lot of Eagles talk, for sure,’’ Ritchie said. “But I’m branching out. I love talking Sixers. I love basketball. I wanted to be a basketball player, but I was not good at it. I started to get into hockey when I played in Philly and the Flyers were in the playoffs and I got a chance to go to some games. I’m looking forward to the Phillies and getting to go down to spring training in Clearwater (Florida).’’
Ritchie’s on-air partner is long-time radio host Joe DeCamara, who has worked his way around the Philadelphia sports talk dial. The pair seem to have good on-air chemistry for a show that is still in its infancy.
“Joe really knows the radio side and that’s a big help,’’ Ritchie said “It’s a great gig and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I get to expound a little bit more. On TV, you have to be concise and fit your thoughts into a sound bite and wrap it when the producer in your ear tells you to wrap. On radio, you can spread out and breathe a little. That’s the biggest difference. I’m filling four hours, instead of little snippets.’’
Ritchie won’t rule out going back into a broadcast booth one day and providing color analysis either on radio or television on college or NFL games.
“I loved doing games, too,’’ he said “I would love doing that again. I try to do the best and most thorough job I can and that serves me well moving forward. In this business, you don’t necessarily know what the next move will be.’’
He didn’t know what his next move would be in 2005, either, and that’s worked out pretty well.