If you watched the Rose Bowl Saturday—the game, not the parade—you may have heard the announcers mention the left tackle for the Wisconsin Badgers. His name is Gabe Carimi, and he’s an ox of a man. It also turns out that he’s Jewish, and is expected to be joining Taylor Mays and Igor Olshansky on Sundays next year.
Carimi, co-captain of the Big Ten championship team, was recently named the conference Lineman of the Year and awarded the Outland Trophy, a national honor given to the best interior lineman. The civil and environmental engineering major has also been named Academic All-Big Ten four years in a row.
For Carimi, at 6 feet, 7 inches and 327 pounds, playing football and practicing Judaism both come naturally.
“It’s always just who I’ve been,” he told JTA.
Carimi has also made a point of maintaining some observance of the High Holidays, even when football interferes. When Yom Kippur fell on a Saturday during his freshman year, he fasted until an hour before the night game.
This past September, the holiday coincided with an afternoon face-off against Arizona State University. Carimi wrestled with whether he should play at all, even going to his rabbi for advice.
“I’ve always fasted, even when I was young,” he explained. “It’s a moment of clarity to kind of take the focus off the whole world and everything you have to do — just focus on trying to make yourself a better person.”
Ultimately, he came up with his own compromise: Instead of fasting from sundown to sundown, he started the fast early enough to give himself a few hours to recover before the game.
“Religion is a part of me and I don’t want to just say I’m Jewish,” Carimi said. “I actually do make sacrifices that I know are hard choices.”
Fortunately for Carimi, he will face no Koufax choice because Yom Kippur will not fall again on a Sunday for at least two decades.