jameelworthyBy Yvonne Dennis (246)

If most people make a mistake at work they can just shake it off and hope to do better the next day.
With Jameel Worthy’s job as a crane operator, “there’s no such thing as a mistake in a tower crane. If I make a mistake I’ll be in the newspaper.”
The June 2013 Salvation Army thrift-store collapse at 22nd and Market streets shows that’s no flippant remark.
Now working on his seventh assignment as a tower crane operator, just a few blocks away from that thrift-store disaster that killed six people, Mr. Worthy (250) is both energetic and focused.
He has just come in to work on the second of three planned Comcast towers in downtown Philadelphia. Construction is already in progress, but acclimating to the team is no problem for the former Lancers football safety.
As a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 542, he knows many of the contractors who have been doing the excavating, foundation-setting and other tasks performed before a crane is needed at a construction site.
Standing 6’1 and donning a white, stickered hardhat, Mr. Worthy is easily spotted and happily greeted by a few guys he knows as he’s being interviewed in front of the site.
He points to a 50-something, gravelly voiced colleague and says, “We worked together on two highrises. One of the other gentlemen I’ve known since he was in the boxing gym. My step-dad trained him when we were kids. He’s going to be the iron-worker raising foreman and I’ll be working directly with him. He’s the person I’ll be talking to on the radio.” Mr. Worthy and that foreman worked together on projects at City Avenue and 60th and Market streets.
Construction work from job to job is essentially the same and Mr. Worthy has been practicing his craft for 15 years.
“As far as what has to be done, we’re pretty much familiar with the processes of the industry,” he says. “It’s just about getting to know the guys you’re working with and I’ve been around now where I got a pretty good reputation.”
It’s an interesting transition from majoring in political science at Morgan State University. Mr. Worthy says he studied political science not with the intention of pursuing the subject as a career but more to understand how the world works. The study has benefited him when he has served as lead engineer on projects. He credits his step-father with exciting him about tower-building in particular.
“When I was young we’d be driving around and he would say, ‘You see that building over there? I built that.’ And I used to be yawning, like yeah whatever,” he says smiling. “Now I do the same thing.”
Mr. Worthy  started out as an apprentice–“yard dog”, as they’re called– and learned it all.
“I knew that it was something that I wanted to do because I knew that it was a challenge. I like challenges…I figured 50 percent of the people would be afraid of the height so that eliminates competition,” Also, a lot of people are afraid of the responsibility, he says.
Back when he was training there weren’t a lot of tower crane projects, but Mr. Worthy wanted to be prepared. So he positioned himself for the current boom and now he is an expert.
uniform“You have to be good enough and smooth enough to get the production that the contractor wants at the speed that they want and be safe.”
Now a proud father himself, Mr. Worthy is happy to be an inspiration not only to his three children and two stepchildren but to the next generations of Lancers as well. He has generously purchased equipment for Central’s football team and is spearheading an effort to get the players cool new uniforms for the 2016 season.
“As a player, I always wanted to look good because I felt like if you look good you felt good and if you felt good you played good.”
He has has deep respect for the extra work scholar athletes take on and attributes they demonstrate– accountability, teamwork, perseverance and mental toughness. 
“I want the [Central] kids to feel special because they are special. Central is known country-wide, world- wide as an academic powerhouse. I think when we have our men and women out representing us on the battlefield so to speak I think they should have the best of everything.”
The cost of the new home football uniforms is about $7500. If you would like to help, please email Lancers Coach Rich Drayton (246) at coachdrayton@yahoo.com Thanks.