(Cleveland Jewish News/JTA) — The Cleveland deli scene might see a new patron when Mitchell Schwartz arrives in town on Thursday, May 10, for the Cleveland Browns’ rookie minicamp. The team selected him with the 37th overall pick in last week’s NFL Draft.
“Matza ball soup or a nice deli sandwich. And of course in the winter, latkes warm you up. I’m sure I’ll eat a lot of everything once the season starts,” Schwartz said from his hometown of Los Angeles as he rattled off some of his favorite Jewish comfort foods.
The Browns hope the 22-year-old right tackle from the University of California Berkeley will shore up the right side of the offensive line, an area of concern after a disappointing 4-12 season last year.
When Schwartz’s cell phone rang during the second day of the draft on April 27, he said emotions in his house ran pretty high.
“Whenever you get that call you’re not quite sure that it’s going to be ‘the’ call,” he said. “But I picked up the phone and heard the good news. My family reacted a little more intensely than I did. They were jumping on the couch and running around a little. It was awesome.”
Schwartz said he and his brother Geoff, a member of the Minnesota Vikings, were raised in a strong Jewish household.
“We’ve always been in Hebrew school from an early age,” said Schwartz, whose family belonged to Conservative synagogue Adat Shalom in West Los Angeles “We went to temple every year, observed major holidays. We were pretty active, especially compared to some of the friends we had who were Jewish.”
‘I kvell when thinking about it. For a dad who’s been a jock his whole life, it’s a real unbelievable situation’
Schwartz followed a similar path to the NFL as his brother, who was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the seventh round (241st overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft. Geoff signed a one-year deal with the Vikings on March 31.
Schwartz’s father Lee said that he and his wife Olivia Goodkin feel lucky to have two sons in the NFL.
“I guess the best way to say it is, it’s surreal,” he said. “I kvell (take pleasure) when thinking about it. For a dad who’s been a jock his whole life, it’s a real unbelievable situation.
“We stressed family, we stressed being good, ethical people, morals,” Lee Schwartz said of raising his sons. “We stressed the religion and being Jewish. I think it’s just a collection of a lot of things that we as parents try to instill in them, and ultimately it worked out.
Schwartz said he’s looking forward to getting involved in Cleveland’s Jewish community.
“From everything I’ve heard, it sounds like a pretty decent-sized community in Cleveland,” he said. “I’m sure my mom and dad will help me figure it out. I’m plenty confident I’ll be able to find something.”
As for joining a synagogue, Schwartz said he’d play it by ear.
“You kind of have to figure that out as you go,” he said. “Especially during the season, it’s a lot harder to find time for that.”
While he paves the way for the Browns’ running backs and protects the quarterback this season, Schwartz said he won’t forget the influence Judaism has had on his athletic career.
“Judaism teaches a lot of dedication and hard work,” he said. “You don’t go back on your word. You do what you’re supposed to do when you’re told by your superior. I think it’s more the spirit of being a good person in society. If you do those things the right way, you’ll be successful no matter what you do.”