Religion and Sports
Champion of Judaism
It did not take long for the people close to Shlomo to begin to realize his presence and inspirational journey. Toward the end of his father's life, Shlomo began inviting his father more and more to spend Shabbat with him. After some resistance, he finally gave in. As Shlomo put it, "He saw, he tasted." His father finally saw Shlomo shine. "He was truly inspired. He saw what I saw and he was growing." His father had never been prouder.
One day, Shlomo's father, who had seen his son grow from a young student in Florida to a successful college football player in Texas to a Super Bowl champion, turned to him and said, "I'm prouder of you wearing a yarmulke than I ever was with a football helmet on your head."
Shlomo explained: "You have to understand who this was coming from. It was coming from a very proud father. A father who made sure every game I ever played was video taped. A man who watched every game. He was my biggest fan. He never walked out of the house without my football card in his pocket."
It was this father, a father who had so many reasons to be proud of his son, that told Shlomo this. Shlomo had won the Super Bowl. He had experienced things most of us only dream of experiencing. And yet, when his father said this, nothing in the world meant more to him.
It is no surprise, then, that Shlomo realized he and Alan could use their journey to inspire others. Shlomo, probably one of the most articulate football players ever to emerge from the NFL realized the power of what he had been through, and became committed to telling his story. He understood why he had stayed hidden so long and why Alan did not let him out until later: "I think the reason I played, I think the reason I am wearing a Super Bowl ring, is to tell somebody my story."
Shlomo now travels around the world telling his story to anyone who will listen. With his powerful presence and charismatic personality, he has helped change many Jewish lives, helping others grow. He has gone from being a champion in the game of football to a champion of Judaism.
Even with all this, it would probably be fair to ask Shlomo whether he misses his old life. He had a lot, and now his life is significantly different. Shlomo has indeed been asked this many times since he and Alan became partners. In response, he simply says there's nothing better, including winning the Super Bowl, than "Sharing your story with somebody with the hopes of after they hear your story the will say, 'you know, Shlomo, I've struggled with wearing a yarmulke, but now that I've heard you speak I am going to wear my yarmulke full time.'"
"Do I really miss it? What is there to miss?"
This article was first published at Chabad.org and is reprinted with permission.
Elad Nehorai is an alumnus of Arizona State University and Mayanot yeshiva. You can find Elad wandering around America, gallivanting around Israel, or getting lost in the clouds. His favorite things to do include reading, writing, and conversing with G-d.