49ers select Jewish safety Taylor Mays

Jewish players in the NFL are rare commodities, but now fans of the San Francisco 49ers have one to root for in Taylor Mays. 

The 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound safety was drafted by the 49ers in the second round (49th overall) of the 2010 NFL draft on April 23. Mays played four years at USC, earning All-America honors for three straight seasons.

NFLDraftscout.com describes Mays as an “imposing player” with “freakish measurables in terms of size and speed that could translate into superstardom.” He clocked a time of 4.24 seconds in the 40-yard dash during the NFL scouting combine.

A native of Seattle, Mays is the son of Laurie Mays, an executive with Nordstrom who is Jewish, and former Washington Redskins defensive lineman Stafford Mays, who is African American.

Mays attended Jewish Sunday school starting at a young age and continued with Hebrew school twice a week, according to a 2009 article in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. In February 2001, he celebrated his bar mitzvah with a football-themed party.

“I don’t think at the time I really understood what [having a bar mitzvah] meant,” Mays was quoted as saying in his biography on the USC website. “Now, looking back on it, I feel like I have come a long way in regards to maturity and becoming an adult. I think it helped me do that.”

Last season, seven Jews suited up for NFL teams, according to Jewish Sports Review, including 6-foot-6, 315-pound Dallas Cowboys defensive end Igor Olshansky, who grew up in San Francisco.

If Mays makes the 49ers roster, he won’t be the first Jew to play for the team. In the 1980s and ’90s, offensive lineman Harris Barton and tight end John Frank were standouts, collecting five Super Bowl rings between them.