Although the stereotype reads that Jewish people aren’t as athletically inclined as others, these stereotypes are over-generalized beliefs when it comes to football. Many Jews have played ball or sat in the league’s corporate offices.
On Sunday, the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. There are three members of the Patriots who identify as Jewish: star wide receiver Julian Edelman, safety and special teamer Nate Ebner and owner Robert Kraft.
Edelman’s father is of Jewish descent and Edelman is openly Jewish. During a holiday season NFL Network interview in 2014, when the broadcaster asked Edelman if he was ready to give some good “Christmas answers,” Edelman responded, “Well, I’m Jewish, but I’ll try to keep it to Hanukkah presents, even though Hanukkah’s over.”
Edelman has been signal-caller Tom Brady’s favorite target since joining the Patriots in 2009 – earning two Super Bowls with the team during that time.
Ebner was a world class rugby star before he played football, which he only took on in his junior year at Ohio State University. He serves as a Patriots defender and also a two-time Super-Bowl champion.
Kraft is a notable philanthropist. He is the recipient of the 2019 Genesis Prize, known as “Israel’s Nobel Prize.”
Not playing Sunday night, but still notable Jewish members of the NFL – past and present – is an even longer lineup. But, as the once famous Art Modell used to say of the Jews, “We don’t play, we own.”
Modell was the owner of the Baltimore Ravens.
Other iconic Jewish football team owners include Oakland Raider’s outspoken owner Al Davis and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank.
What about on the field?
Just last year, the Arizona Cardinals selected quarterback Josh Rosen to lead the team as their next hopeful franchise quarterback.
Donned the “Chosen Rosen” or the “Chosen One” in college, Rosen was an All-American top-rated recruit out of high school and went on to be the UCLA Bruins first true freshman to start for team in a season opener.
Mitchell Schwartz, an offensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs who played college ball at UC Berkeley, was just one game away from making it to the big dance this season, losing in the AFC Championship.
In 2017, Schwartz signed a five-year, $30-million contract with the Chiefs, making him one of the highest paid right tackles in the league. He has started in all 96 games in his six-year career.
Schwartz is also notable for playing on the same team as his older brother, Geoff Schwartz, playing on the same offensive line at the same time for the Cleveland Browns.
“We played a lot of sports [together],” the younger brother said in a Baltimore Jewish Times interview in 2012, “Obviously we have a three-year age gap so he beat up on me quite a bit, but I tried to take some victories as they came.”
In football history, there were also some notable Jewish NFL players.
Quarterback Sid Luckman led the Chicago Bears to multiple championships, won eight All-Pro honors and is popularly known in Chicago as the greatest player to ever play for the Bears.
In addition, there was Doc Alexander, an offensive lineman during the 1920s, who assisted the New York Giants to an NFL Championship in 1925 and was awarded two All-Pro selections with the Rochester Jeffersons.
Also a former All-Pro offensive lineman, Harrison Barton, was selected in the first round of the 1987 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers and won three Super Bowls with the team under the methodical guidance of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, in what many deem the 49ers’ golden age.
Benny Friedman, player and coach in the 1920 and 1930s, was a Pro Football Hall of Fame dual-threat quarterback and running back. He was awarded with All-Pro honors four years in a row.
Lyle Alzado played with the Denver Broncos, the Cleveland Browns and the Los Angles Raiders, earning a Super Bowl victory with the latter, as well as two previous Pro Bowl nominations in years before.
Alzado later admitted to steroid-use and became an advocate against players using the banned substance for personal gains. Alzado died at 43 of brain cancer.
And Finally Ron Mix, who notably played for the San Diego Chargers, was an eight-time all-star and won a championship with the team in 1963. Mix was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, only the second player from the AFL to earn the honors.
Other notable members include safety Taylor Mays, quarterbacks Jay Fiedler and Sage Rosenfels, offensive lineman Gabe Carimi and linebacker Andre Tippett.
So, there you have it: Many great Jewish players, coaches and owners have had the opportunity to shape the NFL – and depending on how the game goes this Sunday, they will continue to be role models, too.
Gabe Friedman contributed to this report.
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