This story was dropped in my lap by Michael Blouse of the Allentown Morning Call...
Mike Boryla, quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles 1974-1976, shares recollections of his life as an athlete and his views on the current state of professional sports in a one-man show on stage. The show premieres Thursday and continues through Super Bowl Sunday Feb. 2 at Plays & Players Theatre in Philadelphia.
For nearly 35 years, Mike Boryla kept a fascinating story to himself. He didn't share it with his friends, his family or anyone else.
It wasn't that he wanted to hide this important chapter in his life, but Boryla was determined to always look forward, not backward.
But now he's telling the story in his one-man show "The Disappearing Quarterback."
"I feel like a fifth-grader who knows he's getting that red bicycle for Christmas," says Boryla, 62, who lives in Castle Rock, Colorado, with his wife and four sons. "I cannot wait. I've been waiting for eight months... I'm so looking forward to performing on stage."
He promises to deliver plenty of laughs and believes some of his anecdotes might elicit tears.
"Make them laugh. Make them cry. And make them wait for tension resolution," Boryla says, reciting three critical parts of the narrative arts. Talking the talk is proof that he's a playwright now. Not an athlete, a playwright.
Michael Jay Boryla is not a household name, even to most young Eagles fans. After earning Playboy All-America honors as a quarterback at Stanford University, he was drafted by the Eagles in 1974 and played parts of three seasons. He was selected for the 1976 Pro Bowl, where his two late touchdown passes propelled the NFC team to a 23-20 comeback victory over the AFC squad — one of his personal highlights.
A former teammate, ex-Eagles linebacker Frank LeMaster, attests to Boryla's abilities.
"He was a very talented player with a great arm and great touch. Mike was extremely intelligent, and although he wasn't outwardly tough, he was football tough. He took a lot of hits; he played behind one of the worst offensive lines the Eagles ever had. He was also a great teammate," LeMaster says. "He had some flashes of greatness but all those hits took their toll. I admire Mike — he got out of the game when he should have."
Playing behind that leaky offensive line, Boryla suffered several concussions and various injuries during the 1976 season and did not play the next year. (Boryla says he has no lingering effects from his head injuries.)
He was traded in 1978 to Tampa Bay, played one game for the Buccaneers, then abruptly retired.
He was, indeed, the quarterback who disappeared.
"I felt like the Lord told me to leave and not look back on that time," Boryla says. "I loved football, I loved being a quarterback. I still think a tight spiral is the most beautiful thing in the world. But I didn't want to be that over-the-hill football player who is constantly reliving his heyday. I wanted to move on."
"It's been 35 years and I didn't talk about football for 33 of them. But about four years ago it was my oldest son, Daniel, who asked me about my playing career. And then about 18 months ago I started to tell them [his four sons] some things."
"They never knew that part of my life. It felt good to tell them."
Boryla always regarded himself more scholar than athlete. He also was uncomfortable in the spotlight. On the night Boryla was feted by Playboy magazine with its other college football All-Americans, he walked away from a "wild and crazy" night of clubbing to return to his hotel room and read from the Book of Isaiah.
Free of his jock life, he re-enrolled in school and subsequently re-entered the working world with enthusiasm.
Since 1978, Boryla graduated from a Florida law school, earned an advanced degree in tax law, practiced law for 18 years in the Denver area, served as a director at a Colorado Christian home for unwed mothers, began a career in mortgage banking, and then turned to real estate investment.
It's quite an impressive resume for a man whose carefree attitude had him living out of his Econoline van for six months after his rookie season with the Eagles. And now he has found his true passion. Boryla proudly refers to himself as a "playwright," not a "player."
"I'm an intellectual," says the son of former NBA coach Frank Boryla. "I was a faux athlete. It was difficult for me to feel entirely comfortable inside an NFL locker room. I was happy when I finally got out. There were some very aggressive, extremely bizarre guys in there. I was a quarterback and nobody really physically picks on the quarterback, but there were a few guys that I stayed away from."
The idea of turning his athletic life into a stage play came to Boryla — who's already written six as-yet unpublished plays — sometime after his eldest son questioned him about those long-gone football years.
Originally, he approached Daniel Student, producing artistic director at Plays & Players, with a script for what-was-then-titled "Eagles Belong Where They Can Fly."
"My most significant role, I feel, was convincing Mike to make it into a one-man show," says Student. "At that point it was a comedic look back at his career with actors playing different parts and a narrator telling his stories. I thought his stories, especially those about the linebackers, were wonderful. But I was able to convince him to be his own voice, to tell his own story."
Boryla wanted the play to be about the interesting characters he encountered through his career, not about himself. He eventually relented, though, to Student's suggestion that the quarterback tell his own story.
Many of those anecdotes are about his teammates on the defensive side of the ball.
An unlikely bond developed between Boryla and the personalities that made up the Eagles' linebackers unit — physically imposing stalwarts such as LeMaster, Bill Bergey, John Bunting, Tom Ehlers, Kevin Reilly and Steve Zabel. Boryla brings those relationships to life in his show.
"We were some of the major leaders on the team," LeMaster says, "and we loved to joke around with everyone on the team. Mike, he had such a great dry sense of humor. We used to kid him every day about something — whether it was in the locker room or on the field. We really were out there at the time, we were crazy. I think Mike liked that edgy aspect of us..."
The play features anecdotes of famous Eagles figures, including All-Pro Eagles "Roll of Honor" member and NFL analyst Bill Bergey and former Eagles owner Leonard Tose.
The show also addresses current high-profile NFL topics such as concussions and bullying. Some of these topics will be discussed in post-show events featuring former Eagles players and others in the sports industry.
After one of three private readings of "The Disappearing Quarterback" in Denver, an elderly lady, perhaps a retired grade-school teacher as Boryla speculates, approached the stage and offered Boryla a compliment and asked a question.
"That story you told about your teammate [Tim Rossovich] taking three bites out of a water glass, it's not true is it? You meant a plastic cup, not glass?" he recalls being asked.
"When I told her no, that it really was glass [LeMaster confirms the story], she just walked off. She would not talk to me. I think she was in shock."
Make them laugh. Make them cry. Make them wait for tension resolution.
And leave them shaking their head. [Teehee, did you know that Tom Selleck was Tim Rossovich's roommate at USC ?] "They really liked the play," Boryla says of the reaction he received from audiences. "I got some great feedback. What they really liked the most were my stories about the linebackers, who were always tough-as-nails and sometimes acted criminally insane. They enjoyed immensely that those guys for some reason befriended this long-haired hippie quarterback from Stanford."
"I'm glad that they liked my story."
The one that Boryla is finally excited to tell.
'THE DISAPPEARING QUARTERBACK'
•What: Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mike Boryla performs a one-man show about his life as an athlete.
•When: Thursday Jan. 16-Feb. 2
•Where: Plays & Players, 1714 Delancey Place, Skinner Studio, Philadelphia
•Show times: 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays
•How much: $25, adv.; $30, door
•Info: http://www.playsandplayers.org, 866-811-4111
•Conversation with the community: Topics at play in the real world
Post-show, Jan. 17: Get a perspective on how elements of the show play out in today's Philadelphia and beyond with Bethlehem native and 1980s star Eagles tight end John Spagnola, Pro Football Hall of Fame sportswriter Ray Didinger and guest Mike Benedetto of the New York State Legislature, who has sponsored a bill to ban youth football.
•The players: An artist talks
Post-show Jan. 19: Join Mike Boryla for an informal talk after the show, moderated by director Daniel Student. Local playwrights David Robson and Michele Aldin Kushner will discuss "What is a playwright in the 21st Century?" ..."What benefits does theater provide for people like Boryla, who have their own personal stories to tell, instead of the more common realms of books, film and TV?"
•Post-show classroom: Go back to school with local professors
Post-show Jan. 25 and Jan. 26: A panel of guest professors talk about the play. Guests for Jan. 25 include James T. Reese Jr., associate professor of sports management at Drexel University, and Dr. J. Milo Sewards, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine at Temple University.