Wrestler Bill Goldberg and Olympic swimmer Jason Lezak were among seven inductees into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
The five others inducted Sunday at at the Hall of Fame in Commack, N.Y., were Virginia Tech men’s basketball coach Seth Greenberg; female judo champion Rusty Kanokogi; Penn State women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose; Achilles Track Club founder Dick Traum; and former NFL offensive lineman Alan Veingrad.
Goldberg, an all-American defensive end at the University of Georgia, was taken in the 11th round of the 1990 NFL draft by the Los Angeles Rams, but he turned to wrestling and martial arts three years after an injury ended his football career in 1994. During his seven-year career on the World Champion Wrestling circuit, World Wrestling Entertainment twice recognized Goldberg as the world heavyweight champion.
In an often humorous and casually self-effacing speech at the Hall of Fame ceremony, Goldberg sought to tie his unconventional career choice in professional wrestling to Judaism.
“I wanted to try my best to give the Jewish youth something to look up to, someone who’s persevered and somehow made a difference,” Goldberg said. “What better way to help Jewish youth in dealing with adversity than to parade around the ring on national television in my underwear, demolishing every single person in my path?”
Goldberg did not address recent rumors of a return to professional wrestling, instead saying that he wanted to focus on remaining on this season of NBC’s reality television show “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Lezak, a professional swimmer, came to national prominence as the unassuming hero of the U.S. 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay team that won the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and set a world record. His dramatic final lap of the race made international headlines and helped teammate Michael Phelps notch a crucial victory on his way to a record eight gold medals at the Games.
Lezak has won numerous Olympic medals, including an individual bronze at the ‘08 Games, and earned four gold medals at the Maccabiah Games in Israel last summer.