The NFL journey begins this week for Mitchell Schwartz, as the offensive tackle from the University of California heads to Ohio for his rookie mini-camp with the Cleveland Browns, who selected him in the second round (37th overall) of last month's NFL Draft.
"It is definitely an exciting time coming to an up and coming team," the 22-year-old Schwartz said after being drafted, "a team with a lot of talent that is going to be competing for the next few years and all the years to come."
The Browns went 4-12 in 2011, playing against a tough AFC North division that featured three playoff teams. They hope to improve on the line through the addition of Schwartz, who was a four-year starter at Cal.
NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN called Schwartz "the key pick" of the Browns' draft and a likely starter at right tackle when the season begins this fall. Schwartz was originally projected to go later in the draft, but CBS analyst Rob Rang observed that the native of Pacific Palisades, California "could wind up surprising as a rookie," praising the two-time All-Pac-10/All-Pac-12 selection for his "toughness and dedication."
The brother of Minnesota Vikings tackle Geoff Schwartz, Mitchell started 51 games at Cal, where he earned the Brick Muller Award as the Bears' most valuable offensive lineman for three consecutive seasons. He also showed dedication in the classroom, earning Pac-12 All-Academic recognition in his senior year after being an Honorable Mention selection for the previous three years. Schwartz completed his degree in American Studies in December.
"I know the type of player that I am," Schwartz said. "At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how you win. It isn’t a beauty contest. Football is definitely not a beauty contest. You are going out there to try and win the down. However you have to do that, sometimes it’s not going to look the best, but as long as you come out successful, all that really matters is the production.”
Cleveland has become a popular home for Jewish athletes lately. Omri Casspi recently completed his first season with the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers after being acquired from the Sacramento Kings last summer, and will co-host a series of basketball clinics in the area next month with former Israeli basketball star Tamir Goodman.
On the baseball diamond, Jason Kipnis—whose father is Jewish, although Kipnis himself is a practicing Roman Catholic—is in his first full season with the Cleveland Indians, hitting .274 with five home runs and 20 RBI for the AL Central leaders. The city does not have an NHL team, but former Boston University star Zach Cohen just completed his second full season with the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters, scoring two goals and handing our five assists in 43 games for the top minor league affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.
In time, Mitchell Schwartz could become the most celebrated of them all. He'll take the first step this weekend.
J-Connection: Mitchell Schwartz and his brother Geoff Schwartz are Jewish. Omri Casspi is Jewish, and the first Israeli-born player to compete in the NBA. Zach Cohen is Jewish. Jason Kipnis is a practicing Roman Catholic, but his father is Jewish.