Interview: From the Israeli Gridiron – Jay Hoffman

The average Israeli cares more about soccer then most other sports. The basketball boom swept the country and has some of the best fans in the world. Team Israel baseball is now on the map igniting a Jewish American tradition with the pride of the Israeli nation. But where does football, American football that is, fit in to the story. There is the IFL and the Kraft Stadium. Now meet Jay Hoffman, the man who might be responsible for its next jump in popularity. 
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A little background: “Dr. Jay Hoffman holds the rank of full professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at Ariel University in Israel. Prior to coming to Ariel University, was at University of Central Florida for 9 years. He was the department chair of the Education and Health Sciences Department and Director of the Institute of Exercise Physiology and Wellness. The doctoral program that he created was ranked 6th in the United States and #1 in publications relative to faculty size. Prior to UCF, Dr Hoffman worked at The College of New Jersey for 10 years, where he was the Department Chair of the Health and Exercise Science Department and the Defensive Coordinator of the College’s football team…Prior to his academic career, he signed free agent contracts with the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL and the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL. A dual national of the USA and Israel, Dr. Hoffman commanded the Physiological Unit of the Israel Air Force and served as a Research Officer in the Combat Fitness Unit of the IDF during his military service.
1) You signed two NFL contracts; what happened with the Jets and Eagles? Any regrets?
A difference of opinion regarding talent, I was likely not as good as I thought I was 🙂.  In all seriousness, I was the youngest player in Jets camp in 1983, 21 turning 22 by the end of camp.  Today, there are plenty of guys that age, but not then.  The 1982 Jets went to the AFC championship game and lost, they had a very good team and there was very little change to the roster for 1983.  I was a rookie with Ken O’Brien and he took his first pro snap from me.  When they released me, they placed me with a minor league team, where I made All-Minor Pro.  That led to a contract with the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL.  The New Jersey Generals actually had my rights, but I was traded to Tampa Bay, where I played briefly for Steve Spurrier.  After I was released, I signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.  I was actually playing first team for awhile due to injury. I eventually got hurt myself, but not enough to be placed on the IR.  I was eventually released.  I had one more contract offer from the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL, but I turned that contract down.
I have no regrets what so ever.  I got to play with the best talent in the world. signed a total of three contracts and gained life lessons that has helped me succeed outside of the world of football.  It was not doubt quite difficult to be released, it took several years to be able to look at it objectively and take the good from what happened and use it productively.
2)  You spent several years coaching college football. What did you learn there that you brought with you to Israel?
The ability to adapt quickly.  Coaching in Israel is unlike anything in the United States.  Practices are not on a daily basis, the age and talent range of the players is quite large.  We deal with players getting ready to be drafted into the military, players that are in the military, guys who are working and with families, guys who are religious and guys who are very secular.  We are primarily a Jewish team (when was the last time that was said by any coach, anywhere??) but we also have Muslim players and Christian coaches.  It makes for a great camaraderie.
Obviously my experience has helped to install our defensive and offensive playbooks, and the ability to make necessary game day adjustments.  The best preparation for coaching is teaching, and that obviously is something that I have many years of experience.  I was a very passionate coach in the States, and that is something that I brought with me to Israel.
3) What is your role as the National Tackle Football Team and what are your goals?
I am the Head Coach of the Israel National American Football Team.  My goal is to win move up to the European A division, and eventually win the European Championship.  I also want to grow the sport of football in Israel.  The aggressiveness of the sport is ideal for the Israeli culture and especially for Israeli Youth in learning the values of teamwork, discipline, sacrifice, and hard work prior to their military enlistment.
4) You are also a professor. How does that role help you with Team Israel?
My playing career created many questions in regards to physiological extremes and how to maximize human performance.   This is a constant two way avenue that I continue to explore methods to maximize human performance, whether on the football field or in the military (I am an officer in the reserves of the IDF) and use my scientific knowledge and analytical ability to improve my teams chances of success. 

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