Jared lost pounds, anonymity

Subway pitchman getting used to public persona

— Like many famous people, Jared Fogle rarely gets through a meal in a restaurant without being interrupted by well-meaning people introducing themselves.

Fogle is "Jared the Subway Guy," famous because he lost 245 pounds a few years ago by eating Subway subs and not much else. Instantly recognizable now from his TV commercials for the sandwich maker, he's evolved from unwitting part-time celebrity to something of a pop-culture icon, making a comfortable living traveling around with his old 60-inch waist jeans and telling his story.

Fogle was recently in town for a Subway-sponsored American Heart Assn. walk and spoke to school children about nutrition. He stopped at a pancake house for breakfast, and ended up signing autographs and chatting with other patrons and waitresses. A truck driver from Ohio named Steve told Fogle he dropped 80 pounds and stops at Subway five times a week.

That's great, Jared the Subway Guy said, keep eating those subs -- and go light on the cheese and mayo.

It does get a little old after a while, he acknowledged, having to be "on" in public all the time, especially for a guy who spent so many years as an obese person doing his best not to be noticed.

But Fogle, an Indiana University graduate who briefly had a real job at an airline before the Subway gig took off, knows this won't last forever. His 15 minutes were supposed to be up a long time ago.

"If people didn't give a damn, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in," Fogle said. "I try not to lose sight of that."

The public face of Subway for almost four years, Fogle, 26, has done and seen things he never could have imagined back when he weighed 425 pounds and couldn't walk across his apartment without getting winded.

Thanks to Subway, he's visited all 50 states and several countries, rode a Zamboni at an NHL game, waved the green flag to start a NASCAR race, and chatted with former football greats on the "NFL Today" show on CBS, even trading autographs with former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.

One time he and wife Elizabeth, a pediatric nurse, stopped in at the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., and noticed actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon looking over and whispering.

"I could tell they were sort of talking about me, because I heard Subway mentioned a couple different times," he said. "It was a trip. My wife was freaking out."

The National Enquirer tried to dig up some dirt on him. He's been goofed on by Seinfeld, Leno and Letterman, and spoofed on "Saturday Night Live," "South Park" and in the latest Austin Powers movie.

Fogle says he'll continue to be "Jared the Subway Guy" for as long as they keep sending the stretch limousine to pick him up for appearances.

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