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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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Trestman first Jewish NFL coach since Marv Levy

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Marc Trestman [Bears team photographer Bill Smith]

WINNIPEG — From a Canadian Football League standpoint, his type may not pass this way again. Marc Trestman, 57, waved goodbye to the Montreal Alouettes and now has the distinction of being the National Football League’s sole Jewish head coach – the first since Marv Levy.

With wins in the Bears’ first three games, he’s off to a fine start, sure to have local fans forget about his predecessor, Lovie Smith, who missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons.

During his five-year stay in Quebec, the Als never failed to make the playoffs, winning the Grey Cup twice.

Trestman is considered a “guru” in American football circles. In particular he’s respected for his handling of young signal callers. His prime project with the Bears will be Jay Cutler, 30, an eight-year veteran who has yet to deliver the goods big time.  

To be sure, Trestman has the credentials. Born in Minneapolis, he played quarterback for the Minnesota Gophers and at Moorhead State.

After coaching QBs at the college level, Trestman ended up working as either a QB coach and/or offensive coordinator with Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, San Francisco, Arizona and Oakland. Trestman worked successfully with Bernie Kosar, Steve Young, Scott Mitchell, Jake Plummer and Rich Ganon.

As for the NFL’s Jewish players, I count eight.

Tampa Bay will dress a pair of Jewish Buccaneers this season. Erik Lorig, 26, was a seventh round pick in 2010 and is the son of a Jewish father and a mother of Scandinavian descent. The Stanford grad is entering his fifth season under the big top and at six-foot-four and 250 pounds, he has claimed the starting fullback job. Not exactly a glamour position, since Lorig is utilized as  “an intense, violent lead blocker” who paves the way to glory for the more speedy running backs. He dressed for all 16 games last season, starting seven, and had 12 receptions for 83 yards. At times, he played tight end.

Lorig’s teammate, Gabe Carimi, 25, was acquired just 10 weeks ago from Chicago for a sixth round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. In 2011 the Bears had previously selected the offensive tackle/guard in the first round, 29th overall. At six-foot-seven and 316 pounds, schoolyard bullies didn’t bother him much. In college with the Wisconsin Badgers, Carimi was awarded the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman.

Mitchell Schwartz, 24, a starter with the Cleveland Browns, had a so-so rookie season after being drafted in the second round (37th overall). The six-foot-five and 320-pound offensive right tackle is rated as having terrific feet and showing great blocking potential in the run game.

Geoff Schwartz, 27, is a Kansas City Chief tackle and offensive left guard who is the brother of the aforementioned Mitchell. At six-foot-six and 340 pounds, Geoff is in his first season with KC.

Last year the Vikings inked him to a one-year deal as a free agent. He arrived at a similar agreement with the Chiefs for this season, hoping for better health and performance.  

Adam Podlesh, 30, is in his third year with the Bears as a punter and holder. The former Maryland Terrapin previously played four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2007. A member of the Rochester Sports Hall of Fame, Podlash played in all 16 games last year and kicked 81 punts for an average of 42 yards.

Taylor Mays, 25, a strong safety with the Bengals, is the son of former NFL defensive lineman Stafford Mays and Laurie Mays (nee Black). The six-foot-three 220-pound defensive back played in all 16 games last season and started in three. Taylor was raised in his mom’s religion and had a bar mitzvah.

Brian de la Puente, 28, is, in a football sense, a survivor. Never drafted, the centre and offensive guard signed out of the University of California by the 49ers in 2008 has only two years of official NFL experience, but spent a lot of time on the practice squads of four different franchises. Now, for the second year in succession, he was rescued by the Saints and is projected as a starter. This football nomad is the son of a Jewish mother. He’s NFL-size at six-foot-three and 306 pounds and obviously possesses a never-say-die attitude.

Antonio Garay, 33, is an eight-year NFL nose tackle, who after six years with the San Diego Chargers was signed as an unrestricted free agent to a one-year pact with the New York Jets. The six-foot-four and 320-pound Boston College grad was expected to be a starter, but was released one day before the Jets’ first game of the season. Garay is the son of a Jewish mother and Catholic dad.

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