Where Are They Now

Where Are They Now: Ron Stallworth

Catch Up with the Former Jet from Auburn

2022-cuts-4

Jets defensive coordinator Ralph Hawkins may have had a huge grin on his face during the 1989 NFL Draft. And defensive line coach Wally Chambers, well, he could have been doing cartwheels.

That's because New York used three of its first four picks to shore up its defensive line.

Virginia defensive end Jeff Lageman was chosen in the first round, Idaho defensive tackle Dennis Byrd in the second, and then Ron Stallworth, a defensive end from Auburn, in the fourth round.

"It's kind of a crapshoot. I mean, you're trying to evaluate talent, what works and what you've got. How you can improve on it. No offense, it's kind of like marriage," Stallworth said. "You see that person and you think, 'Okay, they might not have potential.' Then you come back and it may be love at first sight. Even though there may be some attraction, that don't mean it's always going to be smoothness to the end. Or the end may be sooner than you think.

"I think in New York, that was kind of it with us. I mean, Lageman was an outside linebacker that they wanted to convert. And his speed was a question, as I remember. And then Dennis had very good foot speed, but his upper body strength, I think, may have been sort of questionable at that time.

"Everybody looks like they got potential, and then it's the defense of the college team you're playing on. If you've got a lot of above average-type players around you, they can make you look better, as well. And then when you get to that level, it's probably complimentary, as well."

Stallworth, who was raised in Pensacola, FL, didn't dream about playing at the NFL level as a kid. And, for that matter, almost didn't play football as a kid either.

"It's not like all my life I'd wanted to play football. It's kind of something I grew into," Stallworth said. "This past Friday, we had a little get together for our high school state championship team. And one of the coaches that I saw, I told the story about how his assistant coach basically admitted he kind of lied to my mom. I was more of a basketball player, and he told her I needed to toughen up by playing football to be able to play basketball."

Tough enough to play defensive and offensive tackle at Woodham High School, Stallworth helped lead the team to the state title. A prep All-American, he was named as the USA Today Defensive Player of the Year.

Earning a scholarship to Auburn, Stallworth set aside its rivalry with Alabama when he joined the Jets and appreciated being mentored by 11-year veteran and former Crimson Tide standout Marty Lyons during their first season as teammates.

"Marty was definitely the senior guy on the line. We did spend some extra time together," Stallworth said. "I think there were one or two rookies starting and I was one of them. Our record wasn't that impressive that year, but I think we were trying to find what works and what doesn't work."

After posting a 4-12 record in 1989, the Jets realized things weren't working and made a coaching change. Joe Walton was replaced by Bruce Coslet, who had been Cincinnati's offensive coordinator, and was making his head coaching debut.

"It just brought on more transition. We changed the defense up from a 3-4 to a 4-3. And again, I think we were kind of searching for an identity. But that second year, we did improve," Stallworth said.

That second year would be Stallworth's final one as a Jet. On February 1, 1991, he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for veteran offensive tackle Irv Eatman.

What makes Stallworth most proud of his NFL career?

"I guess it was just opportunity to play at that level," he said. "When I started playing football in high school, I never thought I'd get there. That was never my goal. Really, my main goal when I went to college was first, get a degree, and then participate with the team.

"I guess in the back of your mind, you think, 'Hey, if I stay healthy, I'll be good enough possibly to get to that level.' And then when you get there, okay, what are you doing now? It gives you certain perks and privileges that you never thought you'd have. So I guess that maybe would be the highlight."

Following his playing days, Stallworth earned an MBA from Troy State University, and for the last 22 years has been with Merrill Lynch. He is a V.P. Senior Financial Advisor in Montgomery, AL.

"I get a lot of joy out of helping people. I mean, I realize I've been blessed with my life and some things that have happened. I had a chance to go to college, get married, have kids. All the stuff that seemed like it was a million miles away as a child, and now you're enjoying it," Stallworth said.

"And you get to see that in what you do at work. I mean, you basically sometimes help people who never thought they could pay their mortgage off. You help them through rough situations. For example, a lot of folks have been a lot more anxious about retirement than they were five years ago. So one of the things that you do hopefully is provide some type of confidence in them that, 'Hey, things aren't maybe as bad as you think they are. This is just a point in time. We've had worse cycles in the market.'

"That makes you feel better. Some of my clients, they call me before they talk to their spouse about making big purchases. It kind of makes you feel they have confidence in what you do and they believe in you. Trust you as a person."

Stallworth and his wife, Cheryl, have five children. Brittany, a registered nurse; Taylor, who works for ESPN in marketing promotions in Charlotte, NC; Alex, a freshman at Auburn; and Terrance, who is a senior in high school.

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