Myles Jack Leaves Football Behind for Hockey

Jack goes from linebacker to team owner

The Dallas Cowboys have glaring need at linebacker.

The Cowboys were bludgeoned on the ground last season in losses to Arizona, Buffalo, Green Bay and San Francisco and their best run-defending linebacker, Leighton Vander Esch, has since retired.

So the top linebacker in town may be employed by a local hockey team – the ECHL Allen Americans.

Myles Jack retired from the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2022 season and moved on to hockey, having invested in the Jacksonville-based Zawyer Sports and Entertainment. That group owns three ECHL franchises and will add a fourth in 2024 when the league expands to Lake Tahoe. Footballers Tim Tebow became the owner of the Tahoe Knight Monsters and Jack the owner of the Allen franchise – the first African-American majority owner in professional hockey.

Jack was the 36th overall selection of the 2016 NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars and played seven seasons before retirement. He started 96 games, turned in four 100-tackle seasons and scored three career touchdowns on fumble returns and interceptions. He played his final season with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2022 and finished with 104 tackles, his third consecutive 100-tackle season.

Jack, still only 28, then left football behind in Pennsylvania for hockey in Texas. Last fall he and his mother LaSonjia, a co-owner of the team, took over the day-to-day operations of the Americans, a franchise with two ECHL championship banners hanging in the rafters. He was a nightly presence at games until late November when the Steelers, their linebacking corps depleted by injuries, came calling.

Jack un-retired to join the Steelers and played the final three games, all victories, to help deliver Pittsburgh a wild-card playoff berth. He made eight tackles in a road victory at Seattle and chipped in a sack in a victory over Cincinnati. Jack then played 39 percent of the snaps and made four tackles in a season-ending playoff loss at Buffalo.

Then it was back to Allen.

“I’d love to play another season,” Jack said, “But unless the game is done with me, I’m done.”

Jack was born in Scottsdale, grew up near Seattle and played his college football at UCLA. There was plenty of hockey around him – the Coyotes in Phoenix and both the Kings and Ducks in Los Angeles – but he never attended an NHL game. Even the chance to see one of the game’s all-time greats in Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby, couldn’t lure him to a Penguins game during the one year he spent with the Steelers.

But in his second NFL season with the Jaguars in 2017, the ECHL Iceman relocated from Evansville to Jacksonville.

“We talked to Andy Kaufmann, who bought the team, and he was looking for investors,” Jack recalled. “So I attended my first game and thought, `This is really cool that I can invest in something like this.’ It snowballed from there. When this opportunity came up, we dove right in.”

Tebow, who is from Jacksonville, joined Jack and another Jaguar, Reggie Hayward, investing in Kaufman’s ownership group. Zawyer purchased two ECHL expansion teams, the Savannah Ghost Pirates and Tahoe, and also bought the Americans last fall. The Ghost Pirates began play in 2022 and Knight Monsters begin next season.

Jack said he’d attend a few Icemen games a month during his playing days in Jacksonville and fell in love with the sport.

“The speed of the game, the tenacity, the energy, the fights – you get the total package in one in hockey,” Jack said. “It’s like football on skates with a little bit more action.”

Jack even laced up a pair of skates for the first time this winter. It did not go well.

“I kind of clawed the wall the entire way around (the rink),” Jack said. “My skating is a D-minus right now.”

Jack already has attended a master class in marketing, having spent seven years playing in front of packed houses on NFL Sundays.

“You look around the stadiums in Jacksonville and Pittsburgh and see different relationships, different sponsorships and different ideas that made sense to me,” Jack said. “I’m looking forward to building something like that here. I want to intertwine myself within the community and then expand out to Dallas. I see a lot of opportunity here.”

Jack spent his football life traveling around the country for games in Seattle, San Diego, Houston, Chicago and Philadelphia. In his post-football life, Jack has a new travel schedule.

“I’ve been to Savannah, Jacksonville, Tulsa, Kansas City and I want to get to Wichita,” he said. “I like to see what the other arenas are doing. I see an upside with merchandising. I see an upside with everything. There’s a (winning) tradition here. The wins will come. My goal is to make the overall fan experience better. We want to make it known we have family fun around here. When people come, I want them to have a good time.

”It’s going to be great here.”

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