Former NFL offensive lineman and Super Bowl champion Alan Veingrad joined six other professional athletes Sunday for his official induction into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Taking place at the hall of fame’s location at the Suffolk County Jewish Community Center in Commack, N.Y., the ceremony focused not only on the athletic prowess of such greats as Veingrad, seven-time Olympic medalist Jason Lezak and former NFL defensive end and professional wrestler Bill Goldberg, but on their contributions to the Jewish community as well.

In Veingrad’s case, he spoke of his journey from football to Jewish observance, telling how he began using his Hebrew name Shlomo and was drawn to the teachings of Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidism.

“I read every inspirational book written by coaches,” Veingrad said of his years following a succession of seasons with the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, where he was on the 1992 Super Bowl team. “But when I got to the Torah, I realized it was not just a history book; it’s an extremely inspirational guide to life.”

Standing six-foot-five and sporting a flowing gray beard, Veingrad today proudly wears a yarmulke and the ritual fringes known as tzitzit. A financial consultant and motivational speaker – his talk recently at the Chabad House near the University of Southern California was covered in The New York Times – he still wears his Super Bowl championship ring at events.

His message of staying true to his roots resonated with the audience at the hall of fame.

Bill Goldberg and Alan Veingrad pose for fans at the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Bill Goldberg and Alan Veingrad pose for fans at the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

“Be proud of your Jewish heritage and never forget where you came from,” said one attendee. “Today, we are celebrating Jewish heroes.”

The other inductees were Virginia Tech basketball coach Seth Greenberg; Dick Traum, founder of the Achilles Track Club for handicapped athletes and the first runner to complete a marathon with a prosthetic leg; and Pennsylvania State University volleyball coach Russ Rose. Rusty Kanokogi, who fought for recognition of women’s judo and passed away last year, was inducted posthumously.

“It’s such a great day to have such a special event,” announced Lynne Kramer, chairman of the Hall of Fame’s committee. “There are all kinds here, from Goldberg to Veingrad. In my days, Jews could not always play sports. It’s nice to see that today, we as Jews can proudly be involved in sports.”

Expanding on that message, Ricki Marder, whose daughter Samantha Marder was honored as an outstanding scholastic athlete of the year for her performance as a softball captain at Ohio State University, said that perseverance in the face of adversity was a worthwhile Jewish trait.

“You do not have to be the best athlete, but rather the hardest worker,” she explained. “If you are willing to do the work necessary to reach your goal, you can and will succeed.”