Yaniv Kovalski, the first Israeli football player to win a scholarship to play college football in the United States, recently was featured in the sports pages of the Washington Post (‘He’s a real pioneer’: Israeli college football player adjusts to life in the U.S.,” July 27).

Kovalski already looked familiar to ISRAEL21c readers. The red-bearded Jerusalemite was one of the highlighted players in our 21see video series on the rise of American football in Israel.

The 23-year-old, 6-foot-3, 285-pound Kovalski, a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, was interviewed by presenter Yogi Roth in two videos in the series.
A former University of Pittsburgh football player and current college football analyst, Roth was quoted in the Washington Post article saying that he expects Kovalski to thrive.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if in four years, because of his body type and determination, he got invited to an NFL camp. He’s got the ability and the ceiling if he can stay healthy,” Roth told the newspaper.

Kovalski told Roth that achieving a partial scholarship to Stonehill College in Massachusetts was the result of “a lot of work and dedication, and sweat, tears and bloodshed” and that he considers his ability to play football in the blue-and-white colors as a great privilege. He only learned to play football at 17, from watching YouTube videos.

Kovalski is now in training as he prepares to start out as a freshman at Stonehill College, a private Roman Catholic liberal arts school. He will compete for a starting spot on the offensive line this season.

“The thing that impressed us was how advanced he was in certain areas, knowing a lot of what he is, is self-taught,” Stonehill Coach Eli Gardner told the Washington Post.

Because his mother is American, Kovalski is a US citizen and speaks English fluently. But he doesn’t let anyone forget where he’s from; he’s usually seen sporting a camouflage cap with intertwined US and Israeli flags on its crest.