Super Bowl champion Greg Joseph talks about life as a professional Jewish athlete

Suddenly, Joseph was on a path he’d never even thought about.

By Joseph Wolkin, World Israel News

Every football player dreams of being a Super Bowl champion. Greg Joseph became one.

More remarkable, Joseph hails originally from Johannesburg, South Africa. His family moved to America when he was 7 years old, settling in Boca Raton, Florida. He attended a Jewish school as a youngster.

Joseph started out in soccer, but his sports career took an unusual turn when a coach invited him to kick a football. Suddenly, Joseph was on a path he’d never even thought about.

Joseph recently spoke with World Israel News.

Q: What’s it like to be a Super Bowl champion?

“It’s been an unbelievable ride. I wish I was on the field contributing, but you have to take it for what it is. I used this year to sit back, learn, get better at my craft and become a better person in totality. Dang, what a ride. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. How many people get to say they’re a Super Bowl champion?”

Greg Joseph

Greg Joseph (l) with another player (Instagram/gregjoseph/Screenshot)

Q: What was it like to work with Tom Brady and everyone else on this team and really absorb their work ethic?

“It was fun and it was cool to pick brains while getting to know them. What sticks out to me more than being a great athlete is they’re all world-class human beings. Tom is a great person, and I’ll forever remember him for that, rather than being the greatest football player of all-time.”

Q: Did you ever think you’d get to this point?

“It’s so hard to accumulate wins in this league, so you can only imagine how hard it is to win a Super Bowl. It’s a dream and everyone’s goal, but to sit back and say, ‘Wow, we did it,’ I don’t know if it’s fully hit me.”

Q: How excited are you to become a Minnesota Viking and compete to be a starter?

“I’m excited, and I’m going to keep working to be the best possible version of me. I’m excited to get back on the field. It would mean a lot to me because I believe I’m good enough and I belong in this league. I’m just excited for the journey. You need to be mentally tough, because it’s a mentally trying job. You have to be consistent, go into work every day and treat it like it’s your last. Your bottom line has to be more than good enough, so on your worst day, you’re still good enough to be a NFL kicker.”

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Q: How did you first get into football to begin with and when did you realize you could excel as a kicker?

“I got into football in my senior year of high school. At the end of my junior year, the football coach came up to me because I was one of the bigger soccer players and asked if I wanted to try my hand at it. I started kicking with a couple of buddies, and it was fun. I was competitive, so I was like, ‘I want to play on the football team now.’

“At that point, I still thought I was going to college for soccer. Then, I ended up sitting down and really thought about it. I decided to play college football because I thought there’s more of an opportunity in this country to play football. My main goal at the time was to have my college paid for. I didn’t want my parents to pay for it.

“I ended up walking on at Florida Atlantic University. It was somewhere between my sophomore and junior year of college that I started getting a little bit of attention. I said I’ll take this as far as I can and see what I can do. I was lucky enough to attain a scholarship for football, so my parents didn’t need to pay for my college. Then, I put my head down and busted my butt. People thought I was good enough for the NFL, so I said, ‘Here we go.’”

Q: How long were you playing soccer before transitioning to football?

“I’ve been playing soccer for as long as I can remember. My mom jokes that I was kicking a ball before I was even walking. Soccer is my whole life, and it’s truly my first love. I chose to go the football route, but I still love soccer. I support Manchester United to the fullest, and that’s the one team I truly support other than the team I’m on.”

Q: Breaking into the NFL has to be one of the hardest things to do. Did you ever have a point where you doubted you’d make it?

“No, because of my work ethic and I trusted the process all along. Why not me? If not me, then who? That’s the mindset I have on a lot of things.”

Q: You’ve said Judaism has “absolutely” guided you in your life. How has it done exactly that for you as an individual and as an athlete?

“The biggest way it has guided and influenced me is the community that Judaism creates around you. I’ve been blessed with a great family, and I have great friends and mentors, who are all Jewish. I have friends and mentors who aren’t Jewish, but the community that Judaism creates has changed my life for the better. It’s repeatedly helped me on this journey and guided my journey. It molded me as a person.”

Q: You volunteer a lot and often visit Jewish kids. How important is it for you to give back to the community?

“It means the world. It means more than any amount of money to me. I would rather be able to help out people in a less fortunate situation. I want to bring a smile to their face, give them a meal or give them something. It means more to me than anything on this earth. I believe everyone has the right to happiness, and if I can give that just by being there and doing a deed that seems so little to us but it’s huge to them, then I’m all for it. I just want to make the world a better place.”

Q: South African Jews often are strong Zionists. Would you describe your family that way?

“Yeah, in a sense. We have some family in Israel and we’ve all been to Israel. I love Israel. It’s beautiful.”

Q: When did you visit Israel?

“I’ve been twice. I was in Jewish day school until I was in the ninth grade, and I went to Israel when I was in the eighth grade. It was an absolute blast. We went all over, from Tel Aviv to camel riding in the desert. I went the summer before my sophomore year in high school. I played junior Maccabi soccer with the Boca Raton delegation.”

Q: What does Israel mean to you with that connection?

“It’s a beautiful place. When we’re in the locker room and Israel comes up, I tell people they have to go. It’s such a beautiful country. You get a feeling when you’re in Israel that you don’t get anywhere else in the world. No matter what religion, you have to see it for yourself. Everyone is receptive, too. I’m a history nerd, so being there, seeing how old it is and the people that have been there before you is amazing. I try to soak in all of its history when I’m there.”

Q: Is it challenging to be Jewish in the NFL? Do players ask you questions about it?

“There’s not many of us [Jewish players]. When it does come up in conversations, it’s only positive. It’s a conversation of another player wanting to pick your brain about the religion, or I want to learn about their religion. It’s only been positive, and everyone is supportive. There’s this sense in the NFL that a lot of people are very religious. They’re thankful to God for the opportunities that God has provided them. People respect wherever you’ve come from and whatever you believe in. I’ve met an amazing group of people who just like learning about it.”

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Q: Are you in touch with any of the other Jewish players in the league?

“On the Bucs this past year, we had three. It was myself, Ali Marpet and Josh Rosen. We would talk about it here and there, and Josh ended up going to San Francisco. Having three on the team was fun. I did an interview with Geoff Schwartz and his brother is still in the NFL. I know [Julian] Edelman is Jewish, too, but I’ve never spoken to him about it.”

Q: It sends a nice message that Jewish kids can indeed be professional athletes.

“Absolutely. When I go to schools or while talking to kids, I try to instill in them that we’re human. We’re all human, and we can be just as talented as the people next to us. All you have to do is start somewhere, and it starts in believing in yourself, putting your head down and believing in the work. It’s not going to happen because you’re Jewish and it’s not going to prevent it from happening because you are Jewish. You have to put in the work, time, effort and dedication. If you truly believe in it and manifest it, you can go for it.”

Q: Anti-Semitism hasn’t really been an issue in the NFL, but there were comments by DeSean Jackson last year quoting Hitler, which wasn’t even a real quote by Hitler. How does the NFL deal with racism and, more specifically, anti-Semitism?

“I think the NFL has become more united. I think last year, with what’s going in the NFL, they’re doing an amazing job to work with players and make players truly feel comfortable. Players’ voices are finally being heard, which I think is awesome. I think it comes down to a point of education.

“I saw Edelman reach out to DeSean Jackson, and it comes down to education. I’m never one that’s too radical on a subject and I don’t get too upset. It’s an opportunity to teach someone else and help them become a more educated person. I never get too mad, and it’s from a lack of perspective…

“The perspective in the NFL has shifted, and I think it’s awesome for all of the players involved – period. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and different areas. Where else will you come across a locker room with so many different backgrounds? It’s amazing and the NFL does a great job handling it. I’m sure we’ll see even more great deeds coming forward in the future.”