The National Football League season kicks off tonight, and a handful of Jewish players will be looking to make an impact for their teams on the road to Super Bowl XLVII.
If Goliath were around today, he might look something like 22-year-old Gabe Carimi. The 6-foot-7-inch, 320-pound all-American left tackle was chosen as this year’s No. 1 draft pick by the Chicago Bears. But for this football player, religion and academics seem to be just as important as athletics. He still remembers the parashah from his bar mitzvah, when he stood a mere 6 feet 4 inches. During his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin, the Big Ten Conference opener fell on Yom Kippur, and Carimi fasted right up until game time. And when the NFL Draft in April landed on the same day that the civil engineer major was scheduled to present his capstone project to his professor, Carimi chose school. For his first public appearance in the Chicago area May 22, Carimi, a Reform Jew, led the Chabad-sponsored Great Jewish Family Festival, in Skokie, Ill. He spoke with the Forward’s Lisa Barr about his childhood, how he juggles Judaism and football, and his new nickname.