We heard about this story a while back. “Jewish kid makes Michigan football team.” But Alex Swieca’s story is much more than being a great athlete. He was in Israel playing flag football before making it onto the Wolverine squad and no less as a quarterback. (Did I mention he went to an Orthodox high school?) Thank you to Yoni Labow, son of fencer Howard Labow, for putting Alex and I in touch. The fact is Alex's story is awesome; a story Jews should be talking about everywhere. So I caught up with Alex to learn more – and get his NYC Kosher restaurant pick of course.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself?
My name is Alex Swieca. I am 21 years old and grew up in New York City. I attended the Ramaz School until eighth grade and attended The Frisch School for high school. I took a year off to attend young Judea's Year Course and spent a year in Israel where I got the opportunity to play football, take classes, do three months of army basic training, and immerse myself in the Israeli culture.
2. After going to an Orthodox high school, what got you so involved in football?
I have always been involved in football. My love for the game started when I was very young. I started playing organized FLAG football when I was in the third grade. I also attended some tackle football camps in the summer time just to get the experience.
3. What were your main sports in high school? Where did you shine?
I wrestled for 4 years in high school. This really helped my growth as an athlete as wrestling is a very physically demanding sport. I won two Wittenberg Championships and was a captain my senior year.
4. What was your Israel experience like? Was it hard to stay in shape while learning?
My experience in Israel was amazing. It will definitely go down as one of the best years (maybe THE best) of my life. I learned so much about myself and people. I was there on the Young Judea program where I spent three months in Jerusalem, three months in Bat Yam, and three months in Arad doing army basic training. I really didn't get into serious shape until I came to Michigan where I learned the HARD way!
5. Has your community back home been supportive?
Yeah I would say my community has been supportive. Obviously the Orthodox community cannot be FULLY supportive, but I do my best to do my tefilin every day and eat kosher. And, for example, I will not be at a game this year because of Yom Kippur.
6. What’s your favorite kosher restaurant in New York?
My favorite kosher restaurant in NY has to be Le Marais and Prime Ko.
7. What was it like learning from Denard Robinson? Are you two close? Was he a good teammate?
Me and Denard are close and we developed a great relationship while on the team together. He's a great guy and I really respected the way he handled himself when he was "THE GUY." He's very humble in many ways and he's fun to be around. Watching him run was truly amazing.
8. What is in store for you this season? Do the Wolverines have a shot at the Big Ten title?
This is a very exciting year for Michigan Football. We have a lot of young talent and a great staff. We have the Michigan way! This year we expect to win the Big 10 championship absolutely!
9. Did you support the basketball team through the tournament? Is there added pressure on the football program now?
I definitely supported the basketball team. We all did. Both teams have each other's back and we know that we want to bring the spotlight and greatness to Michigan as the basketball team did.
10. What does life look like after college football?
Life after school and football is still up in the air. I am definitely learning a lot of valuable life lessons here during my time as a Wolverine. Whatever I do, I want to love my job. I have a very entrepreneurial side to me so well where that goes!