Besides being a Super Bowl champion and one of the NFL's most feared defensive coaches, the Philadelphia Eagles' Jim Schwartz is a devoted fan of heavy metal. Raised in Baltimore, the son of a cop and brother to eight siblings (including seven sisters!), Schwartz grew up a full-on hesher; a caption under his high school yearbook photo reads, "Most of his free time is spent playing sports, weightlifting, partying and listening to Judas Priest." In college, at Georgetown University, he played linebacker and studied economics — all while rocking a mullet, that most heavy-metal of hairdos. In more recent years, while serving as head coach of the Detroit Lions, he has appeared as a guest on that city's WRIF-FM 101.1 rock radio to expound upon his love of Metallica, Iron Maiden, Motörhead and, of course, Priest.
Schwartz has brought metal's tenacious spirit and fiery energy to his coaching. Under him, the Eagles defense was the fourth-stingiest in the NFL, allowing less than 80 yards on the ground per game in the regular season, best in the league. And while they barely showed up for most of the Super Bowl, which saw both teams combine for the most total yards in NFL history, they did also come up with the single biggest play of the game — Brandon Graham's strip-sack of the Patriot's Tom Brady, a play that the all-time-great quarterback says haunts him.
The performance of Schwartz's squad nor his heavy-metal fandom has not escaped the members of Judas Priest, who kick off their tour in support of new album Firepower right outside of Philly, at Wilkes-Barre's Mohegan Sun Arena, on Tuesday, March 13th. In a recent interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, frontman Rob Halford said, "I know he's a massive Priest fan. I want to drag him out to the show and onto the stage. He doesn't know that yet."
Halford added he was heartened by the Eagles' Super Bowl victory. "I love watching the challenge and human complexity of [football]," he enthused. "To have all these players — who all have their own lives and things on their mind – come together in unison as the Eagles with that goal in sight — win that Super Bowl — that's mind-boggling. All those physical and psychological mechanisms at work ... I'm happy they won, especially after all those years. It's beautiful, man. That message goes beyond sports. That's about never giving in and never giving up."
For his part, Schwartz has said that what he particularly connects to in the music he loves is the story it tells. "Maybe that's what I appreciate about some of these songs. They tell a story of where you've come from and where you're going," he told ESPN. "And I think everyone can associate with that."
Below, see Rob Halford reveal the hilarious stories behind classic photographs of Judas Priest: