On the night of April 27, I got an email from my cousin Norm Levine, who left Shaker Heights after high school to pursue a law career. After graduating from Stanford Law School, he settled in Los Angeles, where he has been a longtime partner in Greenberg, Glusker LLP.
Like so many former Clevelanders, he can’t stop keeping tabs on our local sports teams. His email read, “The Browns just drafted Offensive Tackle Mitchell Schwartz in the second round. He is the son of my partner Olivia Goodkin (and her husband Lee Schwartz). Mitchell was in the office today. His brother Geoff plays for the Vikings. I believe Olivia is the first Jewish mother to have two sons in the NFL.”
In fact, she is the mother of 20% of the Jews currently in the NFL. Geoff, 6-foot-6, 331 pounds, was drafted out of the University of Oregon in Eugene in the seventh round in 2008, near the bottom of the draft. But he has started 19 of the 32 games he has played for the Vikings.
Geoff and his father agree that Mitchell, 6-foot-5, 318 pounds, is the more talented of the two. Taken with the 37th pick of the draft, he is expected to start at right tackle from Day One. Over the past 30 years or so, to the best of my recollection, the only Jewish players to have played for the Browns were offensive lineman Lennie Friedman, who played in 2006-07, and place-kicker Dave Jacobs, who kicked in just five games in 1981, making just four of 12 field goals.
This year the High Holidays don’t fall on a game day, but according to the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, both brothers, who celebrated bar mitzvahs, agree that they would not ask for the day off if they did.
Geoff said, “I cannot tell my coaches I can’t go this week. It’s not accepted. You only have 16 games. I do feel bad about it.”
Mitchell agreed, saying he would want to be there for his teammates. According to the newspaper, he said, “When it falls on game day, you struggle with what to do. You make a decision and go with it.”
Lee Schwartz said, “I just kvell. It’s a surreal experience to see my kids on the field, on TV.” Fortunately for him, at least this year, the Browns and Vikings will not be playing each other.
Mitchell will join his former California teammate Alex Mack on the offensive line, which will be responsible for opening holes for top pick Trent Richardson, who was taken No. 3, and for protecting new quarterback Brandon Weedon, who was picked No. 22. It is difficult for most fans to notice offensive linemen while watching a game. But if Richardson and Weedon have good years, you can assume part of the credit will go to Mitchell Schwartz.
Les Levine can be seen on “More Sports and Les Levine” Mon.-Fri. from 6-7 p.m. and 11-midnight on NEON Ch. 23 on Time Warner Cable. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or on Facebook at ClevelandJewishNews or on Twitter @LesLevine.