Crown Heights, NY – In secular terms, Alan Veingrad can be called an accomplished and successful man. As an American football offensive lineman he played for the Green Bay Packers for 5 seasons, and 2 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys (who won Super Bowl XXVII).
“My father always told me that he was proud of my career and that I made it to the NFL,” Veingrad, today a Torah observant Jew and motivational speaker, recalled last week in a talk to some 80 people in Crown Heights.
“After I got closer to Yiddishkeit, my father told me one day that the proudest moment for him was when he saw me wearing a yarmulka.”
The crowd composed of fathers and sons and some members of the Aliya Institute were deeply moved by that anecdote about Veingrad’s father who was not a religious Jew.
Veingrad spoke at the Reim Ahuvim Shul on Carroll Street this past Thursday and was introduced by Shmuly Goldman, Director of Chasdei Soul II Soul, an organization which funds education for children with special needs.
The now fully bearded sports athlete, whose journey back to his roots was profiled in the New York Times, shared with the fellow Lubavitchers how his Bar Mitzvah was the first and last time he remembered “being involved with anything Jewish.”
With the Tefillin shoved away, the tall and built boy dreamed about becoming a professional football player. “I set my goals and worked very hard, spending many hours in the gym in order to make it until I got a tryout by the Green Bay Packers, and got the job starting on the offensive line.”
Oddly enough, the decision to change teams was actually because of his Jewish identity.
“I left Green Bay because my agent told me it would be difficult to find a Jewish woman to marry in Wisconsin and that I would do better in Texas where I should join the Dallas Cowboys,” he said, noting that his parents instilled in him that he should only marry a Jew.
After his team won the Superbowl, he decided to retire and moved to Florida where a religious cousin convinced him to come to a Torah shiur.
“And one led to another,” Veingard says. “I became interested in Yiddishkeit, something I never really knew anything about. And Chabad in Florida and the Shluchim there helped me continue my growth and development as a frum Jew.”
Alan Shlomo Veingrad can be reached at AlanVeingrad.com