When one thinks of Jews in sports, professional football doesn’t always come to mind. There are plenty of famous Jewish athletes in baseball, basketball or even swimming—baseball players Joc Pederson and Ryan Braun, basketball players Sue Bird and Omri Casspi and swimmers Mark Spitz and Lenny Krazeylburg are just a few.
The NFL’s Jewish legacy mostly consists of backups, one-year wonders and a few great players, like wide receiver Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots. There hasn’t been a famous Jewish quarterback since Jay Fiedler retired in the late 2000s, and even he was rather pedestrian, never once making a Pro Bowl team and never leading any of his teams to the Super Bowl. The best examples of famous Jewish quarterbacks date back to the 1930s and 40s when Hall of Famers Benny Friedman and Sid Luckman led their teams. Since that era, there hasn’t been a Jewish player who has measured up. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen may change that.
Born on Feb. 10th, 1997 in Manhattan Beach California, Rosen was raised Jewish. He began his athletic career as a tennis player, having been ranked top-50 in the country, but switched to football before high school. At St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower California, Rosen graduated at the top of his class was named All American.
Going into college, he was ranked a five-star recruit and the best quarterback in his class. Rosen chose to attend UCLA as their starting quarterback, becoming the first true freshman to open a season as the starter. After his freshman season, he was named Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the year as well as Freshman All-American by several media outlets.
Rosen’s career, however, took a turn for the worst early into his sophomore year when he injured his shoulder and required surgery to repair it. He ended up missing most of his sophomore campaign. He came into his junior season with expectations that he would perform at the standard of his freshman year, and he met expectations, passing for over 3,700 yards, a single-season school record, and leading the Pac-12 in passing yards per game. His highlights include throwing for over 450 yards in the season opener in the process of leading a 34-point comeback win, the largest in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision history. His successful performance led UCLA to a bowl spot at the end of the season. After the conclusion of the season, Rosen was voted second-team All Pac-12 and declared himself eligible for the 2018 NFL draft.
In anticipation to the 2018 draft, there was much speculation over which team would pick Rosen, with some saying that he’d be picked in the top 5. He was considered the highest profile Jewish prospect in a long time, and his Jewish identity became a big story for many outlets. Rosen was picked 10th overall by the Arizona Cardinals, becoming the first Jewish quarterback picked in the first round in over 80 years. He made his NFL debut in week 3 of this season to relieve the injured Sam Bradford. While he has struggled at times this season, as most fledgling rookie quarterbacks have, Rosen has shown much promise, throwing for over 250 passing yards and two touchdowns in Week 8. As he continues to improve, he gives both Cardinals fans and Jews nationwide optimism that one day, they will be telling their kids about the legend of a Jewish quarterback named Josh Rosen.
Avi Koenig is a junior at Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence, N.Y. He is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.