Students learned how Spagnola created a successful career in asset management

By Molly Kutz

John Spagnola talks with students in the Mcfarland Student Union at Kutztown University
Photo Credit: Molly Kutz

Former Philadelphia Eagles tight end John Spagnola remembers every detail of defeating Dallas in Veterans Stadium in 1981 to advance to the Eagles’ first Super Bowl.

However, the moments that replay in his head the most are the five most crucial plays from Super Bowl XV, when the Eagles lost to the Oakland Raiders 27-10.

Spagnola spent the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 6 talking to KU Students about how football was only one chapter of his life. His football career led him to his current one as an asset investment manager, his second calling.

A Lehigh Valley native who thought his career was in political science, Spagnola was taught about hard work and the importance of completing homework by his mother. Responsibility and dedication were engraved into his brain and ultimately helped him prepare for his future.

Spagnola, who was originally drafted as the ninth pick by the New England Patriots, was picked up by the Eagles after the start of the 1979 preseason. He worked hard and was able to play all 16 games in his first two seasons.

In ‘84 and ‘85, Spagnola found himself as an alternate for the Pro Bowl and led the NFC in receptions during those two years. In his 11 years in the NFL, nine of which were with the Eagles, he caught 263 passes for 2,886 yards and 15 receiving touchdowns.

Since the NFL players in the ‘80s did not make nearly as much as they do today, Spagnola had to work in the offseason. This is where he ultimately learned the importance of connections and began setting himself up for life after football.

In 1984, First Boston Corp. was the first off-season job where Spagnola learned the difference between stocks and bonds. During this period, he was also a player representative of the NFL Players Association and later grew into the role of executive vice president.

“I wanted to leave football before football left me,” said Spagnola. “When you do what you love and play for the fans, it’s attractive. It’s gratifying and satisfying to play at a high level, but it doesn’t last forever. A lot of guys hang on too long.”

When Spagnola retired from the NFL, he got into broadcasting, working as a color analyst for college football games. He used this experience as valuable exposure to stay connected to football  and keep his name in the world.

Through taking advantage of new knowledge, opportunities and personal growth, Spagnola created PFM Asset Management Company, which has flourished into an organization with $125 billion “under management.” The KU Foundation has been a client since 2011, and Spagnola helps run its assets.

“I would love to say–at your age–I had it figured out, but I didn’t,” he said during his presentation. “My advice is to keep your door open and see what you like. It may be unexpected, so explore options through the process of elimination and branch out as far as you can.”

Students of all majors were able to learn about the current economy, inflation and the wisdom that Spagnola could share about his many careers in life. He left students with the knowledge that it is vital to make and utilize connections and embrace mentoring programs and face-to-face jobs.


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