From football helmet to yarmulke


Last year, I heard Alan Veingrad speak at the Providence Kollel. For seven seasons, Veingrad played for the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys in the National Football League. He won a Super Bowl ring when he played for the Cowboys. What fascinated me was that Veingrad went from being an NFL player to becoming an Orthodox Jew.

Michelle Kaufman, on, gives an interesting commentary on this in “Ex-NFL Player Goes From Shoulder Pads to Prayer Shawl.”  

“Like many professional athletes who become reliant on built-in structure and motivation from coaches, Veingrad felt lost when the cheering stopped. A cousin invited him for Shabbat dinner, and thus began his metamorphosis,” Kaufman wrote. “After spending most of his life in a violent, macho world, Veingrad was intrigued by the simpler, gentler Jewish way of life.”

I could relate to Kaufman’s comment about Veingrad feeling lost when the cheering stopped. As a broadcaster and on the public stage, I admit that the work fulfilled my need for audience acceptance. But it doesn’t hold me. It is temporary because when “the show is over,” you go home without an audience. I have realized that it is the deeper “work” that I feel from my Judaism that has brought me a sense of peace and calm, as well as a greater sense of trust, knowing that God is with me.

Aaron Howard has written an article, at, titled “From Helmet to Scullcap,” which was originally printed in the Jewish Herald-Voice newspaper in Houston. In this interesting piece, Howard writes that Veingrad says that being a full-time Jew is a lot like being a professional football player. Veingrad states, “Everything I learned in football, I can apply to making my Judaism the center of my life. You’re praying to God in shul, and so you have to come in with the same focus” that you have when you play football.

On the video website, there is a clip, from a sports TV news show, titled, “The Story of NFL Offensive Lineman Alan Veingrad – From Football to Faith.” In it, Veingrad says, “I was talking to the kids and way in the back a rabbi raised his hand and asked me, ‘Now that you know the life that a Jew should really live, would you have played in the NFL?” and I said, ‘Of course! I believe I played in the National Football League to tell my story’.”

As a person who is not a sports enthusiast, I was still so glad to hear Alan Veingrad speak last year and to read about his life, then and now, and his philosophy. It speaks to me.

PATRICIA RASKIN hosts “The Patricia Raskin Show” on Saturdays at 3 p.m. on WPRO, 630 AM/99.7 FM and on Mondays at 2 p.m. on Raskin is a board member of Providence’s Temple Emanu-El.