By Lisa Zimmerman, Player Engagement Insider
Neither Geoff nor Mitchell Schwartz ever imagined that one of them would play in the NFL, let alone both. Growing up in Los Angeles, baseball was their game, with basketball a close second. So, the fact that Geoff had a nine-year NFL career as an offensive guard, and Mitchell is now a five-year veteran offensive tackle with the Kansas City Chiefs, is something of a surprise. Their father is a business man and their mother is an attorney. There was no history of football in the family.
It wasn’t until middle school that Geoff, three years older than Mitchell, stepped onto a football field and even then, it wasn’t a completely smooth start.
“When I was in middle school there was a sports fair for high school,” Geoff recalled. “I went to the booth for my high school and said I wanted to play football and inquired how to do it. But, I didn’t know we had to show up at practice the first day [which was prior to the start of the school year]. I showed up the first day of school and the JV football coach was my teacher and he said, ‘So, do you want to practice?’”
Geoff started practicing, but at that point knew nothing about football and played only one play in his freshman year – on defense.
Although his football skills improved along the way, Geoff still held out hope of going to college to play baseball and ultimately become an attorney. But, baseball and football scouts had different ideas and Geoff was recruited by Oregon to play football for the Ducks, ultimately being selected by the Carolina Panthers in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Meanwhile, although his older brother had started playing, Mitchell still had no intention of stepping onto a football field.
“I got tricked into playing,” he said with a laugh. “I was bigger than all the kids and I threw hard. I was able to throw a football pretty hard. At the time, Geoff was a senior and they realized my size was pretty rare (6’ 4”, 250 pounds in ninth grade) and I was a good athlete and that offensive line was my future. But they sold me by letting me be a quarterback and then they moved me to the offensive line.”
Baseball faded into the background as Mitchell ended up playing football at Berkeley before being a second-round Draft pick by the Cleveland Browns in 2012.
The brothers have always been close so having Geoff lay the groundwork in football and the NFL was certainly advantageous. The two never played on the same NFL team, but they speak all the time and that doesn’t change during football season when they also talk technique and strategy. And then there was that one time they played against each other, in 2013, in which they maintained their loyalty to their own teams, but a couple of teammates were wary.
“[Geoff] was playing on the scout team imitating me,” Mitchell said. “The guy opposite him didn’t want to do anything against him because he was worried [Geoff] would give away secrets.”
Naturally, there is some competition. Of course, each thinks he is the better looking. But, in a heart-warming turn, both agree that Mitchell is smarter – with one caveat.
“[Geoff] always said I was book smart and not common sense smart,” Mitchell said. “Which I think is ridiculous.”
And speaking of books, in 2016, the brothers wrote a book with author Seth Kaufman called, “Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith. It is a light-hearted look at all aspects of their lives including the fact that they are the first Jewish brothers to play in the NFL since 1923.
“It was awesome,” Geoff said of the experience. It also added to his growing media resume.
“I’ve been planning for after football for at least three years,” said Geoff, who has now done a variety of online writing, and broadcast, including both television and radio. “I did the NFL Broadcast Boot camp in 2016. It was awesome. The program was great. Meeting all the executives and getting their feedback. I learned a lot of techniques [as well as] the differences between TV and radio. I have to put the work in. I really enjoy it and I’m always thinking about my next move.”
As the brothers head in different career directions for the first time, the family will at least be able to put all of its fan support behind one team. And it remains to be seen if Mitchell will once again follow in his brother’s footsteps when he too has completed his NFL experience.
Lisa Zimmerman is a long-time NFL writer and reporter. She was the Jets correspondent for CBSSports.com, SportsNet New York’s TheJetsBlog.com and Sirius NFL Radio. She has also written for NFL.com.