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Jewish Football Star Chose Catholic School for Love of Game — and Faith

Lewis Burik may not play in a single Stanford football game this season. At practice, the sophomore inside linebacker trains with everyone else. At games, Burik is on the sidelines, a walk-on to a football team ranked seventh in the country.

But Burik, who was raised as a Reform Jew, with a Jewish mother and Catholic father, told DNA Info he doesn’t mind sitting out and just enjoys being part of the team. And he even chose St. Ignatius College Prep’s team instead of the fourth-best public school in Illinois, Whitney Young, because of St. Ignatius’ “faith-based learning.”

“Lewis had to adapt to learn a foreign religion and, as always he excelled,” St. Ignatius football coach John O’Connor told DNA Info.

Burik was bar mitzvah. And at his Catholic high school he was “needle in a haystack,” he told DNA Info. But he enjoyed the religious classes. He completed four years of religious studies courses, had monthly Mass at school and prayed with the football team in Mass before each game.

“I took a risk, but I loved going to Catholic school,” Burik told DNA Info. “It was very healthy for me to think about theology and God in an academic setting.”

Standing at 5’10, Burik is not the biggest athlete around. Still, in high school, he started 27 games and received the 2014 Anthony Fornelli Leadership Award. He holds a team record for 102 tackles in nine games, and even led his team to the 2012 Chicago Catholic League Red Division Championship.

At Stanford, he no longer has to pray with Catholics before playing. But there can still be potential conflicts. His mother, Lisa Burik, went to Stanford and his father, David Burik, went to Northwestern University. Yet when Stanford played against Northwestern in September 2015, his family was there, watching, and both offered their unreserved support.

Lisa Burik said he “[He] fell in love with the game from day one,” Lisa Burik told DNA Info.

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