Tuesday March 12th 2013 I sat down with former Super Bowl Champion Alan Veingrad. Veingrad has been all over the world speaking about his NFL experience and Jewish story. He was a true mensch during the interview, signing a football and plugging TGR. I even offered him to come over for a Pesach meal down in Miami, but not sure he will take me up on his offer. Our conversation discussed his playing days, Michael Irvin, and of course kosher restaurants. Interview is below.
Tell TGR a little bit about your playing days:
I went undrafted out of East Texas State (now Texas A&M Commerce). I was an undrafted free agent with Tampa Bay for 11 days and then 3 weeks with the Houston Oilers. Eventually I went home to Miami and got a phone call from my college coach to come back to school, finish my degree and help coach the team. A year after that I called my sports agent to give the Packers a call. They signed me and I became a smarter football player. That is why I was able to make the Packers. I had great coaches including, who Vince Lombardi once called the greatest player he ever coached, Forrest Gregg. I was from the same area so I think he saw me as kinfolk.
If Green Bay was such a good environment, why did you head to Dallas?
To be honest they gave me a signing bonus, which in those days was a big deal especially for undrafted offensive linemen. But also my agent was from Dallas and he spoke to me about the larger Jewish community and meeting a wife. This was something ingrained in me, that marrying Jewish and having a Jewish family was important.
Who was better to block for Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, or Michael Irvin?
Well, I didn’t really block for Michael Irvin persay, but he was the best teammate I think I ever had. On the field and in the locker room no one was as loyal and as good of a guy as Irvin. He was also fun off the field as well. But on the field he worked harder than anyone. His sweats were never dry, always dripping with sweat. If you were in a pile being hit by massive defensive linemen, Irvin would be the first to pick you up, tell you how much the team needed you, and pat you on the behind. He was the greatest.
Off the subject of football for a moment; what is your favorite kosher restaurant?
My favorite kosher restaurant is Baron Herzog in California. I am a meat guy. so I also like La Marais in New York. Recently I was in Aventura Florida and I went to Sarah’s Tent and loaded up on all sorts of kosher food and brought it home. It was great and the kids loved it.
Back to football, what has life been like since you left the NFL?
Well for four years I really did not do much. I did some real estate and was a sales director. I had a new wife and child. Then I got into financial strategy. When I was retired I thought I had a story to tell. My brother was a police officer so I start speaking about not doing drugs or about being Jewish in the NFL. I got a speaking gig at the University of Miami Hillel and it was horrible. So I worked on my speaking and when I became Shomer Shabbos my story starting selling to a wider variety of people.
What do you miss most about the game?
The money, just kidding. Competition on Sunday at that level and that intensity was just amazing. Speaking is also a rush but very different. I also miss the comradery, but the Jewish community has fulfilled that for me. I have a connection, a deep connection wherever I travel. I have stayed with strangers, developed relationships, and people are comfortable feeding you. Its a great feeling knowing that the Jewish community is behind me.
What advice do you have to other Jewish athletes?
Do not make the same mistake I did. I didn’t ask the Jewish community what I could do for them. Celebrities and athletes have a tremendous ability to inspire all ages. Connect with the community!
This was the end of our formal conversation. As we left the office and he had finished his pizza I asked him what blessing he said over the pizza. He said for him it was a snack so Mizonot (blessing over non-bread baked items). We were in agreeance that when its a snack its Mizonot and when its a meal its HaMotzei. Overall the conversation was amazing. Veingrad is a class act and a true role model for Jewish athletes. We hope to catch up with him soon.
And Let Us Say…Amen.
– Jeremy Fine