After serving on the NFL Management Council for 10 years, John Jones never will forget the phone call he received from President and CEO Bob Harlan in 1999, asking him to become senior vice president of the Green Bay Packers.
"It was the phone call you always dream of," said Jones, currently serving as executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Jones received another batch of good news on Wednesday when the Packers' Board of Directors approved a plan for Jones to become the organization's 10th president in 2006 and succeed Harlan as CEO in 2007, after Harlan will have reached the board's mandatory retirement age.
"This is the greatest job in all of sports," Jones said. "Today was one of the great days in my life."
Ever since Harlan became the Packers president in 1989, he looked for an appropriate successor to groom. With Jones, Harlan found someone with the necessary league experience and savvy to steer the Packers' ship.
"His background in the league is very valuable," Harlan said. "We've worked extremely well together. I think he's the perfect person to lead them on in a couple of years."
Jones' NFL background in the league starts with his work at the NFL Management Council from 1987 to 1994 and 1996 to 1999. There he gained an understanding for league economics and operations. He served as a member of the league's negotiating team, which reached a global settlement of player lawsuits against the NFL in January of 1993 to secure the current collective bargaining agreement and salary cap structure.
Jones currently analyzes new stadium construction and capital improvement while serving on the NFL Stadium Committee. That insight will allow the Packers to stay abreast of the latest stadium advances across the league.
"That is a great benefit to the Packers," Jones said. "That will enable me to make sure Lambeau Field stays at the forefront."
His also serves on the Board of Directors of NFL Business Ventures, which encompasses the revenue generation of the league from licensing, corporate sales, marketing, internet sites and NFL Properties.
"I can be actively engaged in league-level decision making," he said. "For an organization to truly have an impact, it's not just on the field but also in helping to determine the future direction of our league."
Jones works at those league-wide roles while also being responsible for supervision of the Packers' salary cap and contract management, as well as all of the non-football areas of the team, including retail, marketing, facilities, special events, atrium, finance and legal.
Also, his earlier work on the Lambeau Field redevelopment project was invaluable to the franchise. Along with Harlan, Jones had conceived the idea of transforming "Lambeau" into a year-round destination, a project necessary to the team's economic survival in the NFL. His considerable skills were fully utilized in each stage of the project, including the referendum process and stadium lease negotiations.
For Harlan and the board of directors, Jones became a logical choice not only because of his experience within powerful NFL circles but also because of his local ties. Born and raised in New Orleans, he became a Packers fan through watching their games on television and would later fulfill that early yearning by becoming editor of Ray Nitschke's Packer Report from 1974 to 1975.
He moved to Wisconsin in 1973 to marry his wife, Cindy, from Cedarburg, Wis. The couple met during the first semester of their freshman year at Loyola University of the South. Her family has lived in Sturgeon Bay and Door County for generations, and both of their children, Sarah, 30, and Blake, 24, graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"Wisconsin is home to me," Jones said. "It's wonderful to have family so close by."
With Jones at the helm, the Packers should continue to remain one of the NFL's most successful franchises. His vision includes fielding a winning organization for the Packers fans that span the globe.
"We are a team that represents the fans not just in ownership but in being connected to the community in Green Bay, the season ticket community in Milwaukee and Packers fans all over Wisconsin, throughout America and around the world," Jones said. "It's an organization we hope stands for the values the Packers were founded on and intense, competitive football teams on the field."