The NFL, Judaism, Family and Food

with Mitchell & Geoff Schwatz, NFL Linemen and Ron Mix, Pro Football Hall of Fame Lineman
790 KABC, September 17, 2016

The giant, Jewish, professional-football playing brothers Geoff and Mitch Schwartz  have published a memoir: Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith. They have been in the NFL at the same time since the 2012 season, and have played against each other a few times. They were raised in a Conservative home in Los Angeles, attending Hebrew school and observing the holidays. (Both Schwartzes have remained observant into their professional careers.)The book details their Jewish upbringing, their respect and passion for their shared profession — and their undying love of good food.

Geoff, who is 30, has been in the league since he was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2008. Mitch got picked by the Cleveland Browns in 2012. The 2012 season marked 89 years since the last pair of Jewish brothers played in the NFL.

It is estimated there are 9 active players in the NFL who identify as Jewish. The NFL has about 1700 players, which has Jews constituting just half of one percent of the population. As Mitch writes in his new book, “Numbers like that make me realize that Geoff and I are a rarity.”

“I don’t think I quite understood how important it is to some people that there are Jews who are professional athletes,” he wrote. “I’m starting to realize how big a thing it is in general. It makes sense; all ethnic groups are proud of their members’ achievements. Geoff and I are members of an elite profession.

Talk about zaftig. Both Geoff and Mitchell were too big to join their local youth football leagues, each one weighing in at over 230 pounds and standing over 6’4” at just 15. And besides, Mitch was too busy studying for his bar mitzvah in middle school to think about the gridiron.

Mitch credits their off-the-charts childhood size to their enthusiastic consumption of matzah ball soup and latkes. Geoff puts it a little more bluntly: he and his brother are simply “latke addicts.”

The offensive line in football is (somewhat counterintuitively) where you find the really big guys whose job it is to defend the quarterback while he’s trying to make a pass. Since both Geoff and Mitchell are both on the offensive line — Geoff is a guard and Mitch is a tackle — they have never directly squared off against one another.

But their teams have played against each other a couple times. For an October 2013 game that pitted Geoff’s Kansas City Chiefs against Mitch’s Cleveland Browns — their mother, Olivia Goodkin, made a special half-and-half jersey.