Few athletes in Rockland County have staked out a niche in the sporting firmament like Seth Joyner. The 1982 Spring Valley High School graduate is one of the three finest football players this county has ever produced. Only Danny Fortmann, the NFL Hall of Fame lineman from Pearl River, and Howard Parker Talman, the three-time collegiate All-America from Spring Valley, share the rarefied gridiron prominence claimed by Joyner.
In the 1991 season, Joyner, an outside lineÂbacker for the Philadelphia Eagles, was named NFL Player of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine, was the Associated Press runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year, and earned the first of his three Pro Bowl selections. He spearheaded a tenacious Eagles defense that ranked first in the league in total defense (221.8 yards per game), rushing yards (71 yards) and passing defense (150.8 yards). Joyner wound up with 6 sacks, 3 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries. Two of those recoveries he returned for touchdowns, equaling an NFL seasonal record.
At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Joyner – who also played middle linebacker early in his pro careerÂ – could rush the passer, drop back into coverage and stuff a short-yardage play with equal proficiency. In an era of specialization and situational substitutions, Joyner was a novelty – he played on all defensive downs.
After being drafted in the eighth round of the 1986 NFL draft by Philadelphia, Joyner enjoyed a stellar 13-year career with the Eagles (1986-93), Arizona Cardinals (1994-96), Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos. Joyner developed a reputation as a fierce, outspoken competitor who thrived under Coach Buddy Ryan’s regime in Philadelphia. After a six-year absence from the postseason, the Eagles reached the playoffs four times in five years from 1988 to 1992.
After three solid years with the Cardinals, Joyner joined the defending champion Packers and started the last 10 games of the 1997 season, which culminated in a Super Bowl loss to the Broncos. Ironically, he was acquired by Denver the following season and, in his final NFL game, helped the Broncos to a 34-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII. Joyner showed early signs of promise as a linebacker for the Spring Valley High School football team. He garnered first-team All-County and second-team All-State honors as a lineÂbacker, and also starred as a running back for the Tigers. Joyner’s coach at Spring Valley, Mark Katz, saw him as a driven, goal-oriented role model:
“Seth is a prime example of a kid who did everything right. He gives other kids in the Spring Valley community someone to look up to. They can say, ‘I know that guy,’ and strive to be like him. I’m proud of him, but I was proud of him way back. He’s a self-made player.”
At the University of Texas at EI Paso, Joyner starred at outside linebacker, leading the Miners in tackles in his junior and senior years. When Joyner reached the NFL, his coach at UTEP, Bill Yung, recognized the storybook aspect of Joyner’s rise from humble beginnings to the pro ranks. “A lot of young men have dreams of making the NFL. They watch the games on TV, but for almost all of them, that’s as far as it goes. The dream vanishes. But Seth wouldn’t give up. For him, the dream visualized.” In May 2000, Joyner signed a contract with the Eagles so he could officially retire with the team that gave him the opportunity to make it in the NFL. Joyner, who is 36, lives in the Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley.