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Life After Football
Former Eagle Jason Avant jumps into something new  
By Mary Lou Sheffield

Former wide receiver Jason Avant had a long career in the NFL, showing an unwavering commitment to the Philadelphia Eagles – and fans – for almost a decade. The Philly favorite stayed local once his NFL career ended, choosing to raise his young son and two daughters in South Jersey. As the owner of Deptford’s Launch Trampoline Park, and with two new locations set to open, the 35-year-old has learned a lot about what it takes to push through and succeed, no matter where you’re playing. 

 

Q: You’re often booked as a motivational speaker. What’s your main message? 

Avant: Never quit. Because life tries to bring you as much adversity as possible. That’s my life story. Society doesn’t give you much of a chance, statistically, when you come from where I’m from, but through God’s help and a good family, I was able to overcome a lot of negativity. I believe that even if you are starting from a negative or lower position, you can work your way up if you’re determined, if you’re willing to fight through it, if you’re willing to not complain, if you’re willing to put the work in and the time in. I think that’s possible for anyone. 

 

Q: Can you tell us one lesson sports taught you? 

Avant: Just one? That’s hard. A big lesson I learned is it’s not about you. Sports teaches you that sometimes you have to sacrifice what you want for the good of those around you. You learn how to put others’ needs and wants and desires in front of yours. 

 

Video: Watch Jason Avant Talk About Stress As An NFL Player

 

Q: Is that something you learned in the pros or early on?  

Avant: In my freshman year of college, I was rated the No.1 player in the state of Illinois. I was 26th overall in the country. I felt I had earned a starting position when I got to the University of Michigan, where if you play as a freshman, you’re an NFL-bound player. I really, really wanted to play as a freshman, and I really wanted to be one of the top three receivers as a freshman. We get to the first game, and the coach tells me I’m not playing. It was devastating. I was on the bench behind everybody, just sulking, thinking, “I’m transferring as soon as I get back to my dorm.” The game was almost over, and I realized that life was going on without me, no matter if I was happy or sad. And my teammate said to me, “Forget about yourself for a moment, let’s just root for the team.” I began to realize it’s not about my wants, my desires, it’s about a win for the team. If the team does well, everyone does well. 

 

Q: How hard was it to make the switch from NFL player to business owner? 

Avant: It’s extremely hard. The first thing you have to do is realize football isn’t a 15-, 20-year career for most guys. It helped me because my friends began to get released before me, because I was younger than them, guys like Tra Thomas and Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook. So in my fourth and fifth year, I was already looking to see what I wanted to do. I always liked amusement parks, so I asked the owner of a trampoline park if I could shadow him. He allowed me, because he was an Eagles fan, and I just fell in love with the trampoline park industry.   

 

Q: How do you like being a business owner? 

Avant: It’s very, very time consuming. On the football field everything is planned out for you logistically. You come in, you have a schedule, you know what you’re going to do. Every day is structured. When you’re in business, when you’re the owner, you create that structure. I had to learn a lot about things I wasn’t familiar with to be successful. It definitely takes more time to run a business than it does to play football. It was a steep learning curve. 

 

Q: If your son tells you he wants to play football, what will you say? 

Avant: If he wants to play contact football when he is in high school, I’ll let him play if he’s really adamant. But he has to be really adamant. When a young person has a vision and you don’t allow them to at least have the opportunity to bring their vision to pass, you will hinder them and they’ll resent you for it. But football is one of those sports where you don’t just try it. You try flag football. Once you get to tackle football, you have to be all in or not. 

 

Q: You competed on “American Ninja Warrior” this year. How did you train for that? 

Avant: I had six total days of training. You don’t know what obstacles you’re going to get on each show, so you try to train for a specific movement or concept, and hopefully it’s similar. I did a lot of pull-ups, trying my best to go for prolonged strength, because that’s totally foreign in football. Football is explosive movements. You don’t run for long periods of time, and you don’t exert power or energy for long periods of time. In American Ninja Warrior, you do. My strength failure happens way too quickly – trying to improve that was the hardest part. 

 

Also: A New Kind of Ninja

 

Q: So what do you think of the Eagles this season? 

Avant: Like any Eagles fan, I’m disappointed. They’ve had too many injuries and are just less talented. But they get a pass because of the Super Bowl. I’ll be appreciative of that ring forever.  

December 2018
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