Where Are They Now

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Where Are They Now: John Roman

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John Roman gathered some gridiron experience in the time between being drafted by the then-Baltimore Colts in 1975 and joining the Jets early in the 1976 season.

It was called the World Football League.

"I joined the Philadelphia Bell in 1975 and was a starting right tackle," Roman said. "And so, when the World Football League folded, I came (to the Jets two games into the 1976 season) and had a gauntlet-style type of try-out where the team gathers around and you're just one-on-one with, in my case, different defensive lineman. Somehow, I survived that and the next thing I know, I'm in the huddle and Joe Namath is there. Joe just looked up at me, and to show you what kind of guy he is, he said, 'Hi, I'm Joe. Welcome to the Jets.'

"And with that and two practices, I was on my way down to Miami to play against Bill Stanfill, who was an All-Pro defensive end for the Dolphins. Thank God that Bob Fry, who was a great offensive line coach, and my (veteran) teammates Randy Rasmussen and Joe Fields, Winston Hill, were all very supportive and very helpful.

"My first game, I played pretty well. And then my next game against the 49ers, when I had a lot more practice time and knew the terminology a lot better, I didn't play so well. I don't know what my takeaway from that is. Maybe it was that I played better when I was scared and didn't know what I was doing."

Roman did know what he was doing and was a solid backup offensive lineman and special teams performer. During his first five seasons, the Jets weren't quite as solid. Back-to-back 3-11 seasons were followed by two 8-8 seasons. And then New York went 4-12 in 1980.

The following year, however, things began to click under fifth-year head coach Walt Michaels, and the Jets made the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.

"You could feel the chemistry, the camaraderie, with the players that we had," Roman said. "We did take a step back in '80, but it's kind of odd as it didn't feel like it was a losing season. I know you wear your record, but I just felt like we were building something special. We got a core group of players that were coming into their own and getting better each season."

In the strike-shortened 1982 campaign, the Jets played the Dolphins for the AFC Championship.

"To go down to Miami where the field had not been covered for the entire week leading up to the game, you were playing on, essentially, a mud field that neutralized the advantage that I thought we were bringing to that game in terms of our ability to rush the football," Roman said.

"When I look back, I just feel very proud of the fact that I was fortunate to be one of the reasons, as a contributor, hopefully trying to be a good teammate, that was there for the bad times, but had the toughness of stick it out and get things turned around."

Following seven years with the Jets, Roman retired in 1983, having played in 93 games and with one pass reception from Matt Robinson in 1978 for minus-2 yards. He then got into the financial field, a second career he began cultivating during his offseasons with a little nudge from a Jets legend, John Schmitt.

"I met Schmitty after one of our practices early on in my career," Roman said. "He was an insurance professional, and when I'd see him from time to time, he'd question, 'So, what happens if you're not playing football? Where you going?' So that got me thinking more about a career beyond football. And while I didn't become an insurance professional, it led me to different gatherings in Manhattan where I met people in Wall Street.

"In '78, I was hired by Blyth, Eastman Dillon. I sat for the series 7 exam and went through the Institute of Finance. In the offseason, where some of my teammates were probably enjoying life a little bit, I was taking the 4 train down to Wall Street and maybe getting my head beat in a different way, mentally."  

With Merrill Lynch for just under 10 of the 34 years he worked in finance, Roman was one of a handful who created Merrill's trust company. Working his way from junior member to trust administrator to regional manager to district manager, Roman was president of the trust company for several years.

In 2013, Roman's career began to go full circle, as he made his way back to football. He is the only remaining founder of a company called Defend Your Head.

"Concussions have plagued not only football, but all contact sports for many, many years," Roman said. "During my era, you had to be knocked out to be evaluated and considered to have had a concussion. And, of course, we know today there are many other symptoms, clinically and otherwise, that equate to a concussion.  

"(Former Buffalo Bills safety) Mark Kelso and I are friends, and he was lamenting about this product called ProCap that he used to wear during his career. He had been told to retire at an early age, but he continued to play and wore this product. He was called Gazoo head and maybe other unflattering names, but he swears by it and feels that he could not have continued his career if it were not for the use of this not so attractive looking outer shell product.

"We have simile designed product (called ProTech) that form-fits a football helmet, but we've improved it not only from a look perspective but from the material we use. And a landmark moment for us was creating a spring-loaded attachment system to allow the product to move independent of the helmet upon collision. That relieves some of the peak impact force that occurs at the initial impact. Whether it's helmet to helmet, helmet to body, or helmet to turf.

"We didn't really start to commercialize the product until just two years ago. We have over 25 colleges now utilizing the product, and the NFL is evaluating it."

Roman and his wife, Kathy, make their home in New Albany, Ohio. They have two adult children: Allison and Justin.

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