Aug. 31, 2001
Sports - Jewish football players
Football field of dreams
Two local Jewish athletes hope to lead UBC's team.
KYLE BERGER REPORTER
The field at the University of British Columbia's Thunderbird Stadium
was muddy and flooded as a mid-August downpour soaked the varsity
football team's morning practice.
But even after battling the elements while pushing their bodies
to the limit for the sake of impressing the coach, the T-Birds'
Zack Silverman and Aaron Harowitz left the field with smiles on
their wet faces. Because they were doing what they love.
"If I can walk, I'll practise," Harowitz said of the
conditions under which he works.
The two athletes, both past graduates of Beth Tikvah's Hebrew school,
are facing even more strenuous times this season as they fight for
starting positions on the team.
Silverman, 23, is in competition with a younger, but taller, athlete
for football's most glorified position, the quarterback. He is coming
off a Canadian MVP season with the Okanagan Sun of the Canadian
Junior Football League, where he led his team to the national championships
and won it all.
His competitor, Rob Kenney, however, has the advantage of knowing
the T Birds' playbook inside-out, as he's been the team's back-up
pivot for several seasons already.
Silverman didn't get a chance to begin studying the book until
two days before training camp began.
"I'm a smart quarterback and knowing the playbook and making
plays with my head is the best thing I can do, so it's going to
take some time for me to get to the level that I want to be at,"
"There's nothing to say that just because someone starts the
first game ... they're going to be better than me forever. I'm always
going to practise as hard as I can and push [Kenney] because that's
the best thing for the team and the best thing for me."
On the other side of the football line, Harowitz, a second-year
outside linebacker, is also competing against another second-year
player for a starting role on the team. He spent last season backing
up the position while starting as a special teams player. His progress
is unique, however, as this will only be his third year playing
"I didn't really ever have it in my mind to play collegiate
football when I was growing up," he said. "I was always
a basketball player and I didn't play football in high school."
A few years ago, at the age of 17, he joined the Richmond Raiders
community football team and had a successful season while studying
as a freshman at UBC. He was discovered by the T-Birds' coach and
was invited to last season's summer training camp.
While his progress with university level football has been quick,
Harowitz doesn't see a big professional career ahead of him.
"There are guys that are my age that play on the team who
definitely will play in the [Canadian Football League] and have
been to [B.C.] Lions' training camps but I've never really taken
it as seriously," he said. "If it comes to the point where
I can make some money playing professional sports, I would love
to for a few years but, for now, I'm here getting my education paid
for and having some fun."
His studies have been focused on education, as he hopes one day
to have a less physically demanding career as a high school teacher.
While Silverman is considering turning his education attention
towards a law degree, he is hoping for a few years of professional
football after his time at UBC.
"If the opportunity was presented to me I'd probably take
it," he said, pointing out that most Canadian professional
football players get paid less than lawyers. "It would be worth
the experience just to say I played professional football. But right
now, that's not really a priority because I'm more worried about
winning my starting job in university."
In the meantime, both athletes agreed that juggling a grueling
football schedule and a high-level education has proven to be tough,
yet rewarding. With classes usually running from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30
p.m., they often have just one hour to eat and get to the field
for a practice that runsuntil 8:30 p.m.
"It's a time-management thing," said Silverman. "Instead
of doing nothing in between classes, you do your homework and you
do it at night when you get home. A lot of my friends who are just
in school have so much available time to kill."
Harowitz said the game itself has taught him lessons that he will
carry with him the rest of his life.
"I know that I can focus on something and if I work hard enough
I can achieve it," he said. "Every athlete has failed,
lost and been beaten and it's about how you pick yourself up, brush
the dirt off and come back harder and stronger. It's the same with
sports, the same with school and the same with life."
"Particularly with football," added Silverman. "Because
it is such a physical sport, as well as mentally demanding, it takes
so much inner strength not to have a breakdown and when you fight
through an injury it makes you so much tougher.
"For me, when there's almost no time left on the clock and
I'm standing on the two-yard line, how I react to that tells me
as much about myself as any test or anything I can do."