Media Profile: He looks like a wrestler and a tough guy, but inside this hulking radio personality is an easygoing guy who’s passionate about discovering musical talent and healthy eating.
Looking at Jon Schulz, one might confuse him with a body builder, or maybe a wrestler. Turns out, he’s been both. But those are just his hobbies. You might know him better as Captain Jack, afternoon host and music director for 104.9 WXRX in Rockford, part of Midwest Family Broadcasting Co.
Schulz is a hulking figure. At 6 feet, 3 inches tall, and 245 pounds, he’s imposing and muscular, with a clean-shaven head. He even possesses a large tattoo that swallows most of his massive right bicep and depicts a radio microphone head, as well as a bright red cardinal, in tribute to his late grandmother. He resembles Mr. Clean more than, say, Howard Stern or any other radio personality.
“Most people think men in radio are heavy guys who wear Hawaiian shirts,” he says, laughing.
But looks can be deceiving. Those who know Schulz best say there’s a kind-hearted soul inside that big frame. “He looks intimidating, but he’s such a nice guy,” says Terry Turen, aka Double T, from the X’s morning show. “He’s easy to get along with. It takes a lot to get him angry. He’s so down to earth.”
Schulz, who grew up listening to rock bands like KISS, started his radio career playing adult contemporary music at a small station in his hometown of Freeport. After graduating from Freeport High School, where he played football for the Pretzels, Schulz attended Highland Community College, where he hit a roadblock and was undecided about a future career. “I had no idea what I wanted to do,” he says.
A high school friend who worked part-time at the Freeport radio station encouraged Schulz to apply. “I had no idea what to expect,” he says. Turns out, he enjoyed the radio business enough to pursue it full-time.
The moniker “Captain Jack” was hatched when he joined the X. “We were out one night as a staff having pizza,” Schulz explains, noting that he was working the overnight shift at the time. “Our program director looked at me and said, ‘Captain Jack.’ I still kind of chuckle when people call me Captain Jack. Not too many call me Jon. The radio name has stuck.”
Around the station, Schulz is known for his quick wit and ability to pull pranks on unsuspecting co-workers. “He’s laid-back, likes to joke around, but at the same time he’s serious and does his job well,” Turen says. “A lot of people are different when they’re on the air, but not him. He’s the same Captain Jack.”
While he enjoys playing the hits, Schulz also finds himself immersed in the business side of the radio industry, a major responsibility of the music director at WXRX.
“I work with record labels and artists on a regular basis to decide what new bands will land on our station,” he says. “A band that has a good management team behind it will always have the upper hand. The bottom line, however, is if it’s good, fits our station and our format, we’ll play it.”
Over the years, Schulz has worked with some of the biggest acts in rock music. But his greatest thrill is getting to know lesser-known bands that are trying to find their way in a tough business. Schulz has become friendly with a Philadelphia-based band called Halestorm. Recently, he spent 10 days in Los Angeles with that band, “hanging out on their couch,” as they recorded their latest album. “I love bands like that,” Schulz says. “They want to be the biggest rock band in the world, but they’re so gracious and humble, and they work so hard at it. They’re like a close-knit family.”
Away from the radio station, Schulz commits equal resolve and passion to his other interests. For 10 years, he was involved with independent professional wrestling. The first match he ever took part in was at Rockford’s BMO Harris Bank Center, where the promoters of the show were looking for a local radio personality to wrestle one of the show’s biggest stars. Schulz was selected from the crowd of 7,000 to get into the ring with wrestler Jimmy Hart. “I was absolutely terrified,” says Schulz. For the next decade, he wrestled in school gyms, armories and bingo halls with some success, before hanging up his tights for good.
From pro wrestling, Schulz entered the world of competitive bodybuilding, thanks to some encouragement from buddies at the gym where he trains. For the past three years, Schulz has participated in various bodybuilding competitive events held in Madison, Wis. Last fall, he reached his goal of finishing in the top five.
Strutting across a stage in front of judges and fans wearing nothing but a posing suit intimidates some people, but not Schulz, who preened before large crowds as a wrestler.
“It’s completely addictive,” he says of bodybuilding. “I was in the best shape of my life. There’s a lot of training and hard work that goes into it. But the payoff is getting on stage and doing your thing.”
Schulz is a creature of habit. He trains every morning before heading into the radio station. Work and training tend to balance each other out.
“I could have the worst day at work,” he says. “But I take it to the gym and work it out of my system. The same can happen the other way. If I have a lousy workout at the gym, in the morning, I go to work and put all my emotion into it to make it a great day. I have the best of both worlds.”
“He’s very dedicated,” Turen says. “He’s serious about his workouts and what he eats. In the media business, we’re surrounded by cake and pizza and other unhealthy foods. But every day, he eats his chicken and rice. He’ll even bring his own food to concerts.”
Much as he loves his hobbies, Schulz is firmly focused on the radio business. Radio Contraband, a promotions company based in Spokane, Wash., last year named him “Small Market Program Director of the Year.”
“It was a great honor for Captain Jack and the entire station,” Turen says. “When someone wins an award like that, it means he’s well-liked and well-respected.”
Schulz has branched out. Last year, he started working as a contributor to radiocontraband.com. He interviews various musical artists for the company’s website in a segment called “It Goes to 11,” in which he asks every band the same 11 questions.
Schulz is having fun, and it shows. His love for music – and life in general – rubs off on his family, wife Sherri and sons Nicholas, 14, and Gavin, 11. They enjoy tagging along with Schulz to concerts and rock festivals, which is fine by him.
“They’re getting to the age where they think what Dad does is pretty cool,” he says. “I love what I do. I take a lot of pride in my work.”