Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Pashos has had a busy offseason, beginning with a proposal to his longtime girlfriend, Michelle, in Paris. He also traveled to the Washington, D.C. to receive a national award for his work with underprivileged children in Jacksonville, and while there received a private tour of The White House.
When he is not playing with the Jaguars, the former Illinois standout keeps busy as the Jaguars' player representative for the NFL Players Association, running the "Pashos Pals" program for abused and neglected children and serving on the board of a local foundation. Pashos found time to sit down with jaguars.com to talk about his busy schedule.
First of all, you started out the 2009 year in style by getting engaged. How did that come about?
"My fiancée, Michelle, and I wanted to go to Greece for New Year's because my mom was still over there. She had been there for a couple of months taking care of some business and she spent the holidays by herself. She sounded sad over the phone so we wanted to go cheer her up and surprise her. Well, not only were we going to surprise my mom, we stopped over in Paris on our way and I proposed to my then-girlfriend and now fiancée. So I surprised her and my mom all in one trip."
Your parents were Greek immigrants and you speak three languages, Greek, English and German. Do you remain close with your family in Greece?
"I spent a big part of my life there. Every summer I was there living with my grandparents, learning about my culture and my heritage. It has a special place in my heart. My entire family is from there and we still have a large amount of family over there now."
Does your family in Greece follow the Jaguars?
"Internet and computers are everywhere now and my family is no different over there. They follow us as much as they can online. Some of the members that have lived in the United States and moved back there or are working there have satellite TV's. They get the games on the NFL Network. It's pretty neat."
You are getting married next year in Greece. How did you talk Michelle into agreeing to it?
"I wanted to get married in the same village as my grandparents, my parents, same area, same villages and same traditions and customs that everybody before me did. I wanted to keep the legacy. The church we chose over there has been there for hundreds of years. It's in a remote location and the scenery is beautiful. When my fiancée first saw it she fell in love with it. She knew it was the church that we were going to start our beginning."
You report to training camp in about six weeks so I know you will be out of the planning stages. Is it going to be a small wedding?
"It may be a small church, but it's still a big fat Greek wedding. We have the most amazing parents on the planet that are taking care of the wedding planning. We lean very hard on Michelle's parents and my parents. It's not going to be a small wedding. We thought about it but I think we would get in trouble with a lot of our family and friends if we made it too small. We're looking to do a typical big fat Greek wedding."
Your teammates selected you as the 2008 Byron "Whizzer" White Award recipient for your work in the community. It had to be a big honor for you to attend the banquet in Washington, D.C. and be one of 12 NFL players to receive a JB Award from NFL personality James Brown. How cool was that trip?
"Being around peers that are doing the same things as me and also learning what they are doing and how they are doing it is what made it special. It makes you want to strive even more and that is the biggest thing I took from the trip. I was very thankful but at the same time, there were a few other guys on the team that could have easily been there as well. We do have guys that participate and do a lot. I was very thankful for it, but I wish there were even more to hand out to more guys. I wish there was a way to pay back the media and community relations department at the Jaguars because they do a great job of setting me up with those things. The organization does a great job of finding out what each guy likes. Not everybody likes doing certain things. You have to find out what certain players are passionate about. If it's golf then guys like going to a golf outing to raise money for a charity. We have some guys that enjoy bowling. It goes many different ways."
*The highlight of the Washington trip had to be your visit to the White House. *
"Washington D.C. and the White House for a history major like myself, with a focus on American history, is heaven on Earth for me. I love Washington. When I go there I am like Mr. Griswold with my family. I have to see all the museums and stop and read every historical marker. The White House is the epitome of that and it was a nice treat to be taken around the White House on a tour that was very in-depth. A couple of weeks ago, they had a two-day special on the nightly news on the White House. It was so neat and surreal to see the same spots that I was hanging out in. I really enjoyed it."
What was your favorite part of the tour?
"Hands down, the Oval Office, just being able to look in there. That office itself is so historically important. We saw the touch that President Obama had put on it. Watching television is one thing but actually seeing the pictures behind his desk, the bust of Martin Luther King. It was impressive."
Switching gears, you were elected the team representative for the NFL Players Association and attended their annual meeting in Hawaii earlier this year. How did you become the club's representative?
"There was a void because the previous two were Ernest Wilford and Donovin Darius. After they were released, we went a year without having a player rep in the locker room. They still maintained the title and represented us in the votes. They were not in the locker room so we needed a new rep during the season. When we had our annual union meeting as a team, my teammates voted myself as the union rep and Joe Zelenka and Paul Spicer as alternates. I have always had questions from day one as a rookie, whether it's about a contract or the salary cap I have always looked at it differently for how to get more for practice squad or that guy trying to make the NFL but he is a teacher. How can we accommodate him to not only leave that job and take that risk? Do we pay him a little bit more in the offseason training? Just little things."
Now, you are the table with the 31 other representatives. You can get your answers more swiftly.
"Definitely. DeMaurice Smith has been very open and transparent with us. When he came into the locker room, we were bragging about how good of an executive director we picked. When he came in the guys were thrilled. Everybody was there for an optional meeting by the union. He won all the guys over and at the end of the day when he gave out his cell phone number and his email address."
*You started the "Pashos Pals" group in 2007 to help abused and neglected children by doing one event a month. In addition, you serve on the Board of Directors of the HEAL Foundation, a local foundation in Jacksonville. How did you get involved with the organization? *
"The HEAL Foundation is here in town. We are not looking to argue how autism is caused. That's an entire other debate. What we focus in on is exactly what HEAL stands for, Healing Every Autistic Life. What we focus on is the recovery of those children. Many of them have been recovered in town from the work of Dr. Julie Buckley and Dr. Jerry Kartzinel. It's something that goes on here in town and everything stays local. We are talking about giving these children back to their parents who lost their children. A lot of times autism might be the disease of that child but it's a problem for the whole family. We are actually recovering that entire family to go on and become normal. We have a huge Gala and golf outing beginning tonight. We can't wait to get things going."
You have your hands involved in a lot of stuff off the field. How do you balance all of your community work and football?
"That is probably the big reason why I have been dating the same woman for seven years and put off getting married for so long. If you want to succeed in this game you really have to be married to football. That is what I have been and what I continue to be. That is where it starts. Football holds the precedent. We're fortunate enough to play and it's not going to be forever so you might as well put everything you can into it while you can. From there I let nothing on Earth interfere with practice, meetings, workouts, nothing. If I have to go somewhere then I find a way where there is a gym in that city or at that hotel. Maybe I do an extra lift or run while I am in town to make up for that day I missed."
What is Tony Pashos going to be doing in 10 years?
"When I go around and do the work with special needs children or just children that have it bad in general, maybe financially or whatever the reason, I feel a passion to want to stand up for them. I have talked to my fiancée about maybe going to law school when I'm done playing to get my law degree and fight for a lot of people that need it. A voice for so many people that don't have a voice and that is where I feel I will head when I'm done playing. Now, if that leads me into politics then so be it. If I ever got into politics I would never be a politician. I would be more of a civil servant. I can't stand when politicians treat it like a career of how to talk and be a politician. I know what my father taught me from all those years of working at the steel factory. I know what matters. I know what it takes to succeed for him, or anyone else. I would speak from my heart and not to please any polls."