Sunday, February 7, 2010

From NFL Super Bowl Champ to Shlomo, Lubavitcher Chasid and Motivational Speaker

Whether or not you watch the Indianapolis Colts battle the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV at the Dolphin stadium in Miami today, here's a Super Bowl story that's sure to be interesting. 

Alan Veingrad, a non-observant Jewish football player from Miami who hadn't been to shul since his bar mitzvah a decade earlier, joined the Green Bay Packers in 1986 and played for them for five seasons, from 1986-1990, and two seasons for the Dallas Cowboys, 1991 and 1992, who won Super Bowl XXVII on January 31, 1993, playing in a total of 86 games.

Following the Super Bowl win, Veingrad retired from football back to Florida, where he rediscovered his Jewish roots and became an observant Jew affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. He now uses his Hebrew first name, Shlomo, and travels around the country giving inspirational talks about his spiritual transformation.  As a motivational speaker, Veingrad uses sports metaphors to characterize his journey, and vividly relates the discipline of being a professional football player, to success in life. 

As Samuel G. Freedman writes in Friday's New York Times,
The story Mr. Veingrad tells in about 40 speeches a year attests to a ferociously competitive spirit. He started playing high school football as a teenage beanpole in Miami, could get a scholarship only from a Division II school, East Texas State, and was cut by his first two N.F.L. teams.
A full year later, he caught on with the Packers, beginning a six-year career with Green Bay and Dallas. From high school through the pros, he defied the odds with a rigorous program of weight training and a relentless study of technique.
In retirement, Mr. Veingrad brought a comparable focus and intensity to his emerging religious life, which was nurtured by Moshe Gruenstein, an Orthodox rabbi in South Florida, with whom he studied the Torah for eight years, and then by several Chabad rabbis.
Here's a short sports video report about Veingrad's career and transformation.  Enjoy!
Photos by Chabad

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