From matzah balls to NFL — oh brother, what a story!

At 6-foot-6, 340 pounds, veteran NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz isn’t just a force of nature, but a product of good ol’ Jewish nurture.

“My size comes from a childhood that included an excess of matzah ball soup, latkes and tons of white rice,” the 30-year-old joked. “But, of course, my brother’s similar physique suggests that genetics had plenty to do with it.”

That would be his little brother, Mitch, 27, the Kansas City Chiefs’ starting right tackle. Little is a relative term, of course, as Mitch checks in at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds.

Geoff and Mitch are the authors of the new book “Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith.” Published last month, the lighthearted memoir was co-written by the brothers and novelist-humorist Seth Kaufman.

Geoff (left) and Mitch Schwartz at synagogue in the old days photo/john solano

Sports fans will find plenty of insider information on the NFL and college football. Geoff played for the University of Oregon from 2005 to 2007, and Mitch (then known as Mitchell) played four years in Berkeley, earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors as a Cal senior in 2011. Combined, the brothers have 12 seasons of NFL experience for five different teams.

But from the opening pages of the book, their Jewishness is front and center. One of the first stories is about the brothers frying up latkes on the first night of Hanukkah, following their bubbe’s recipe.

“The people who know us know that’s a big part of our identity, but I think it was important to share as much as possible in the book,” Geoff Schwartz said from Detroit, where he spent the preseason as a member of the Lions. He is now a free agent looking for a team. “I mean, my whole family — we’re proud to be Jewish and to be raised in the tradition and going to temple.”

Growing up in West Los Angeles and attending Adat Shalom, a Conservative congregation, the brothers always were involved in sports. But neither started playing football until high school, in part because their parents didn’t want practices and games to interfere too much with Hebrew school.

In the book, the brothers quote their mother, attorney Olivia Goodkin, on her eventual acceptance of her sons’ football fate, given that each stood well over 6 feet tall at his bar mitzvah.

“I started out worrying that they were going to get hurt — but then I realized it was the other players I should be worrying about,” she says. “They were like trucks hitting small cars. And I started to kind of feel like maybe this was their destiny.”

Indeed. Geoff was a seventh-round pick in 2008 and Mitch went to the Cleveland Browns in the second round in 2012, the 37th overall pick. After starting every game in his four seasons with the Browns, he signed a $33-million deal with the Chiefs after last season, making him one of the highest-paid right tackles in the league.

Readers will learn the finer points of proper blocking in one chapter, find a primer on the lunar Hebrew calendar in the next. There’s also an appendix of family recipes.

Geoff (left) and Mitch on the field photo/courtesy olivia goodkin and lee schwartz

The conversational memoir flows from one milestone to the next, such as Oct. 27, 2013: “The Schwartz Bowl,” the brothers’ first and so far only on-field meeting when the Chiefs (and Geoff) hosted the Browns (and Mitch). Then there’s the weekend in 2014 when Geoff’s wedding, a traditional Jewish affair on the beach in Santa Monica, occurred at the height of NFL free agency frenzy. Only hours after signing his ketubah, Geoff would sign the largest contract of his career (it was for $16.8 million for four years, though the New York Giants released him after two seasons).

The brothers also grapple with some of the compromises they’ve had to make in pursuit of their careers. “I’m very clear that when I have to, I choose football over the [high] holidays,” Geoff said. “Some people have a hard time with that concept. I don’t.”

But he does fast on Yom Kippur whenever possible, an act of atonement to which he devotes several paragraphs in the book. “Toward the end of a fast I usually feel great, like I’ve achieved something,” he writes. “I feel lighter, not physically, but mentally. I’ve endured, and I feel energized and clear.”

In the book, Mitch recalls a visit he made in his rookie year to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He encountered a group of Orthodox teens who, upon learning he was a Jewish NFL player, started peppering him with questions and begging for autographs. “I think it takes experiences like that to make you realize just how much bigger it is than you think it is,” he said of being one of a handful of Jewish players in the NFL.

As for their teammates or opponents in the NFL, Geoff said that there have been a few anti-Semitic comments, but he said many don’t understand, or misunderstand, what it means to be Jewish. “People think it’s more complicated than it really is,” Geoff explained. “So we let them know how not-complicated it is.”

Part of the motivation for writing the book, according to Geoff, has to do with life after football. Geoff, for example, might want to get into media or writing. He already co-hosts the “Block ’Em Up” podcast, and this summer he guest-wrote Sports Illustrated’s popular “Monday Morning Quarterback” column on

Yet, the ultimate ambition is for the Schwartz brothers is to finally team up — as co-hosts of their own cooking show.

“Cooking has become a creative outlet for both of us, something we enjoy exploring and experimenting with,” Geoff writes. “We love the improvisational element of cooking, and the social element, too.”

The brothers have already prepped a “sizzle reel” of them interviewing a Beverly Hills chef  and then whipping up some saffron seafood risotto. The book details early talks with TV execs — it’s unclear whether the Food Network or the NFL Network is more interested — but “we’re definitely still working on it,” Geoff confirmed.

Two Jewish brothers in the NFL makes for a great story. But two Jewish brothers in the NFL with their own cooking show? Who would believe that?

“Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith” by Geoff and Mitch Schwartz, with Seth Kaufman (288 pages, St. Martin’s Press)


Content distributed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service.