Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Interview: Former Notre Dame QB Gus Ornstein

Recently, I began tracking down some great Jewish football players. Gus Ornstein, while never on an official opening day NFL roster bounced around practice squads. But he was best known as a quality NCAA Quarterback. First made a name for himself at the legendary Notre Dame but eventually transferred to Michigan State. We caught up with Ornstein to hear about his career and where he is today. Thanks to Ornstein for connecting with TGR!

1) Tell TGR a little bit about yourself?
I grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan until I was about 7 and then my family moved to Tenafly, NJ. I attended the Fieldston School for high school. I was drafted by the Seattle Mariners my senior year of high school but turned it down to play football and baseball at Notre Dame. I ended up transferring after one year because I lost my red shirt year after appearing in a game vs Navy. I went to Michigan State and played baseball and football there. I was drafted by the Kansas City Royals after my sophomore year but turned it down to focus on football and then was drafted by the Yankees after my junior year. I took a semester off from MSU and went to play one year of minor league baseball with the Yankees.

After my season with the Yankees I decided to return to football and played one season at Rowan and led them to D3 National Championship. I was then signed as undrafted free agent with the Rams. I was then cut by the Rams and returned to MSU in order to graduate and graduated Suma Cum Laude.

I then spent time with Colts, Dolphins, Jets and KC Chiefs. I also played a season in NFL Europe with the Scottish Claymores. and a season in the CFL with the BC Lions

2) You got to play for Lou Holtz. What kind of a coach was he? 
Lou was an incredible coach and motivator. He was also very demanding and expected a lot and would put a lot of pressure on you in practice in an effort to simulate the pressure you would face in a game. He once told me the three toughest jobs in the world were President of the US, Mayor of NYC and QB at ND!!

3) Not many Jewish athletes go to Notre Dame. What was that experience like? 
It was an incredible experience. There was a great Jewish community in South Bend and they were very supportive and would reach out to me all the time. I learned a ton while there and many people learned a lot from me as well. I truly enjoyed my time in South Bend and my decision to leave was purely a football decision.

4) Why did you decide to transfer to Michigan State? What was the biggest difference between the two schools? 
I decided to transfer because I had lost my red shirt year at ND after playing in a game vs Navy. In the off season I had asked Holtz if I would have the opportunity to compete with Ron Powlus for the starting job and he basically said that Ron would be the starter no matter what. That meant that since I had lost my red shirt year that I would sit behind him for the next 3 years and never play. When looking to transfer I visited Ohio State, LSU and MSU and really fell in love with MSU. I liked that they were bringing in a new coaching staff and that I would be the first QB recruit to come in with that staff- I also liked that they were going to be putting in a pro style offense. 

I loved MSU- much bigger school than ND and I ended up really enjoying the size of MSU. I also ended up being a communication major and had amazing professors- two of which I am still close to today.


5) You moved around the NFL a bit. What was the most challenging part of the transition from college to the pros? 
I found it difficult to break in and get an opportunity. In each experience I felt that I could play and felt it was hard to get the opportunity to really prove myself. I had incredible experiences on each team that I played for and met amazing people and developed great relationships. But would have loved to have been able to stick with one team and made a career out of it! I felt I had the ability but just never got into the right situation or when in the right situation just did not really get that chance to prove my ability.

6) Where was your best experience in the NFL and why? 
I love Indy- loved being able to be around Peyton and learn from him. That was just an incredible experience and he was an awesome guy and tremendous leader and mentor. I learned so much during my time in Indy. I also loved that coaching staff and really felt that my skill set fit with what they were trying to do offensively. I also enjoyed the staff and the guys on the team- just a great atmosphere with that group.

7) Who was the best player you played against and with
The best player I played against in college would probably be Sam Madison or Grant Wistrom and best player that I played with would have been Derrick Mason at MSU- in the NFL- Peyton Manning.

8) What was your Jewish life like growing up? 
For me Judaism was always associated with family. We did not spend much time in temple but we always celebrated all the high holidays and always made sure we get together with family and extended family on those days and would always discuss and relate the holiday. Still to this day I love the Jewish holidays as I look forward to getting together with family and I look forward to discussing the holidays- especially now as I have three daughters of my own- it is important that they understand their Jewish identity. I also found my Jewish identity grew stronger as I moved around the country- growing up in NYC and going to high school in NYC I was surrounded by Jewish people- but as I went through my career there were so many times when I was the only Jewish person around and that was very challenging at times and made me appreciate the upbringing I had that much more as well as my Jewish culture and identity.

9) What are you up to today? 
I am currently the athletic director at Fieldston (my alma mater!) I am in my 4th year as the AD and my 13th year as head football coach and I absolutely love it! Fieldston has always been an incredibly special place and to have the opportunity to have returned home has just been so rewarding for me

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Kublanow Makes the Ravens

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Former Georgia Bulldog and MoT Brandon Kublanow has caught on with the Baltimore Ravens. One problem he is on the injured reserve. Hopefully he heals quickly and gets on the field.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Edelman Out for the Year

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Julian Edelman will miss the entire 2017 NFL season with an ACL injury. Get Healthy Soon JE11!

Rough Day in the Jewish NFL

It was a very rough day in the Jewish NFL. The following list of guys were cut by their respective teams. All showed promise and were rumored, by some, to make their teams. Hopefully they will get signed to practice squads or with other teams.

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Mike Bercovici - 2nd Year QV - LA Chargers
Daniel Braverman - 2nd Year WR - Chicago Bears
Anthony Firkser - UDFA FB - NY Jets
Mitchell Kirsch - UDFA OL - Chicago Bears
Gabe Marks - UDFA WR - NY Jets


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Interview: Arm Wrestler Ed Grossman

At TGR we love hearing stories about Jewish athletes that aren't in the four major sports. We have covered Pro-wrestling, swimming, and others. But never have we interviewed an arm wrestler. Meet Ed Grossman, an over 60 arm wrestler from Chicago who is just getting started in competition.

 Ed Grossman with World champion Vazgen Sagoyan

1) Tell TGR a little bit about yourself.
I am 60 years of age.  I am married to Lydia for over 35 years and have one daughter, Iris, who just started law school at DePaul (where I also went).  I was born in St. Louis but my family moved to Chicago when I was very young. I grew up on the far north side and in Niles.  I went to Niles North High School, the University of Iowa for one year and then Indiana University in Bloomington.  I now live in Palos Heights.  I co-founded the Chicago Legal Clinic, Inc., a not-for-profit provider of legal services to those who cannot afford a private attorney.  The organization has served over 450,000 people since its founding in 1981.

2) How did you get involves in arm wrestling?
I was always pretty good at arm wrestling.  I was relatively small but always had good upper body strength.  I was a gymnast in high school (see below) and did the rings, which is conducive to good arm strength.

3) Did you play High School sports? 
I followed in the footsteps of my two older brothers and was on the gymnastic team at Niles North, doing the rings.  I was on teams that were very accomplished but by no means was I the star of the team.  We had some excellent gymnasts.

4) How do you think you will fair in the competition?  
The competition will be very tough and I probably will not fare very well.  The sport of armwrestling is pretty big in Eastern Europe and they have some amazing armwrestlers there.  I am a little banged up left handed, but hope to be pretty competitive with my right hand.

5) How can others get involved? 
Anyone who wishes to get involved in a formal way with armwrestling can come to practices that occur in several locations in the Chicago area.  The team I am on Is called "Armed and Dangerous" and we usually work out on Sundays at 1:00 p.m. at the Brauerhouse in Lombard, Illinois.  A couple of my teammates are amazing, but since I am over 60, there is a bit less competition. But some of them have won national championships.  Anyone can join, as there is no fee, but you might have to buy the guys a pizza!

6) Is this your first experience? If not, what is it like?

In 1980 I entered an armwrestling competition that was world class, but just with my left hand, as my right arm was injured.  I took in the top 9 in my weight class.  After a 35 year hiatus, I was watching TV and ESPN had on world championship armwrestling matches.  One of the competitors was Allen Fisher, who is a few months older than me.  He was highly competitive, even at his age against much younger guys. So I figured I would give it a try. That was about two years ago.  So after training with my teammates since then, I guess I am as ready as I can be.

7) Anything else we should know? 
A couple of years ago I played in the world series of poker and that was an amazing experience. I am a licensed pilot and somewhat of an amateur magician.  However, I believe I am much better at armwrestling than those other vocations.  I guess now is my chance to see if that is true.  I am very proud that I will be representing the United States of America in this competition and I feel extra motivation to do well.

Good luck Ed and keep us posted!