SEPTEMBER 14, 2017 – While Alex Smith was throwing for four touchdowns and Kareem Hunt was rushing for 148 yards, you may have noticed Kansas City’s hulking right offensive tackle in the Chiefs’ 42-27 victory over the Patriots in the defending Super Bowl champ’s season opener.
Now entering his sixth season, Mitchell Schwartz has never missed a game in his NFL career. One of the most notable was in 2013, when the 6-5, 320-pound Mitchell was with the Cleveland Browns and his older brother, Geoff, was an offensive lineman with the Chiefs. Mitchell and Geoff became the first Jewish siblings to compete against each other in NFL history.
In this year’s opener, many Patriots fans probably thought the outcome of the game would have been different had Julian Edelman – New England’s own Jewish star – not been sidelined for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.
Edelman, Tom Brady’s trusted target over the middle, was named the fourth-best Jewish NFL player of all time by the American Jewish Historical Society last year. Ahead of him: Sid Luckman, the Chicago Bears quarterback from 1939 to 1950; Ron Mix, offensive lineman for the Rams, Chargers, and Raiders, 1960 to 1971; and Benny Friedman, who played quarterback for four teams from 1929 to 1934.
Shortly after catching nine passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in the Pats’ 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the 2015 Super Bowl, Edelman dug into his Jewish roots during a Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston trip to Israel.
“Exploring my heritage is something I started in the past few years and seeing Israel for the first time, really getting a sense of its history and culture, I now truly understand why it’s so special,” he said after the trip.
Another of New England’s core players who also is Jewish – special teams catalyst Nate Ebner – also missed the 2017 opener with a shoulder injury. The Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, is a renowned Jewish philanthropist.
Though there aren’t many Jewish players currently active in the NFL, some of the former stars include quarterback Jay Fiedler (1994-2006), who had his most memorable years with the Miami Dolphins, and the Patriots’ Hall of Fame linebacker, Andre Tippett (1982-1993).
Tippett, who was raised in a Baptist family, converted in 1997 after he was immersed in the culture of his wife Rhonda’s close-knit Jewish Framingham family. He lives in Sharon, where he attends Temple Sinai.
“I knew that it was important that I engulf myself in learning,” Tippett, who calls himself a proud Jew, told The Boston Globe regarding his conversion. “I did this for my family. It was probably one of the easiest things I had to do in my life. It was fun. It was an opportunity to learn about a new culture and history, and to study.”
Meanwhile, watch out for Adam Bisnowaty, a rookie offensive tackle with the New York Giants. While NFL players are known for their tattoos – which are prohibited under Jewish law – the 6-6, 300-pound Bisnowaty wears his faith on his sleeve. Or rather, under it.
On his inner upper arm in large Hebrew letters are the words from Exodus, when Moses asks God what he should call Him: “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh,” which translates to “I am that I am.”