PHOENIX — Waving signs with the phrases “Shalom Josh” and “Chosen Rosen,” Phoenix’s Jewish community is showing its pride for that rarest of NFL commodities — a Jewish quarterback.
Rookie Josh Rosen not only is playing for the Arizona Cardinals, but he already has taken his place as starting quarterback.
“I take pride in the fact that they brought in a bright Jewish kid who has both athletic ability and poise to quarterback a major NFL team,” said retired orthopedic surgeon Irwin Shapiro, a 30-year season ticket holder. “I love going to football games. I love the excitement, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. I am glad that they put the ball in Josh’s hands.”
For their first-round draft selection, the Cardinals chose the former University of California, Los Angeles quarterback as the 10th overall pick. With his signing, Rosen joined the first and last Jewish quarterback to be a first-round draft pick. Sid Luckman played for the Chicago Bears from 1939 to 1950, leading the team to four National Football League championships.
For Rosen, the opportunity to start came sooner than anticipated. It happened in the fourth game of the season against the visiting Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 30.
He completed 15 passes for 171 yards and his first touchdown pass was to receiver Chad Williams in the fourth quarter. Williams presented the football to Rosen for his trophy case.
Even though the Seahawks won the game, 20-17, on a 52-yard field goal with the clock running down, Cardinals fans have reason to be optimistic about Rosen’s future.
His second start took place Oct. 7 on the road, when the Cardinals beat the San Francisco 49ers, 28-18. As in his first starting game, Rosen avoided interceptions and costly mistakes.
Rosen already has inspired a following of Jewish fans that hopes he’ll become an elite quarterback who brings success to the Cardinals.
Lawrence Bell, executive director of the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, has been a season ticket holder since 1988 and attends every game with his father.
“Rosen looks like the real deal,” Bell said. “He is smart, his passes are on target, and he gives passion and energy to the team.”
Bob Mallin, a retired attorney, also has been a season ticket holder since the Cardinals moved to Arizona after the 1987 season. When asked how he felt about having a Jewish quarterback, Mallin responded, “I was a kid in Brooklyn that grew up during the era of Sandy Koufax. Need I say more?”
Mallin added that the atmosphere of a live football game is absolutely electric.
“The drama of each play, the intensity of the athletes, and the noise level and involvement of the fans, all add up to an almost undefinable level of excitement,” he said.
Bell hopes “Rosen can inspire Jewish kids to be great athletes and great football players.”
“It makes me feel good to know that Jewish players can make it in football, one of the most physical American sports,” Bell added.
For Joel Arthur, a retired pedodontist and season ticket holder since 1989, Rosen is a dream come true.
“I never thought that I would see the day that a Jewish quarterback would be leading the Arizona Cardinals,” Arthur said. “He stayed out of trouble, no turnovers — a nice performance overall.”
Joel Zolondek is a contributing writer to the Phoenix Jewish News, an affiliated publication of the Jewish Exponent.