Long before Mitchell Schwartz enhanced his family’s NFL legacy last week, his older brother, Geoff, had to convince him to play football.
When Mitchell was a freshman at Palisades Charter High School in suburban Los Angeles, he didn’t have much interest in stepping onto the gridiron, let alone becoming an offensive lineman like Geoff, who was a senior at the time. However, another position — and Geoff’s urging — eventually lured Mitchell.
“He actually never really wanted to play football,” Geoff said Monday in a phone interview. “We had to trick him into playing quarterback on [junior varsity]. He came out on the football field, and once he did that, he liked it. It didn’t take him very long to move to offensive line. Ever since then, we’ve been the Schwartz brothers playing football.”
Mitchell played for the University of California. Geoff continued his career at the University of Oregon. Now both of them are in the NFL.
The Browns drafted Mitchell in the second round (37th overall) Friday night, filling their dire need for a starting right tackle. Geoff signed with the Minnesota Vikings in March after spending the previous four seasons with the Carolina Panthers, who drafted him in the seventh round (241st overall) in 2008.
Their parents, Lee Schwartz and Olivia Goodkin, already have the schedules of the Browns and Vikings mapped out on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, so they can organize travel plans and attend as many games as possible.
“It’s rather surreal,” Lee said Tuesday by phone. “A lot of parents would love to just have one son in the NFL, and fortunately now I have two.”
Considering the size of his children, he must have realized awhile ago this could happen. Although Lee is about 6-foot-1 and Olivia is 5-9, Mitchell is 6-5 and 318 pounds and Geoff is 6-6 and 331 pounds.
“I joke I think they’re just genetically mutated,” Lee said. “They’re just naturally that big.”
The family’s grocery bills were substantial as a result.
“We had a service that we were bringing in that was intended to last for six months,” Lee said. “They’d bring in our poultry and beef and fish and some other foods, and there was an industrial-size freezer in the garage to handle this six-month delivery. For us, it was three months.”
The Schwartz brothers have developed big appetites for success, too. When the Browns picked Mitchell, another dream became a reality for the family.
“The look on his face, the way he reacted, my wife and I were saying is a [moment] that will be seared into our memories for the rest of our lives,” Lee said. “He was just so absolutely genuinely happy.”
After Mitchell was drafted, he spoke to local reporters via conference call and credited Geoff’s advice for helping him throughout his career. He’ll certainly continue to receive guidance as he transitions to the next level.
“He’s coming into a good situation where he basically has been told he’s the starter, so he needs to kind of embrace that right away and mentally prepare,” Geoff said. “I told him it’s a long season, and you have to mentally prepare yourself for that, especially in your first year. You’re going to be all jacked up when you get to rookie minicamp, and then you realize you’ve got five practices in three days, [so] make sure that you get your rest. But he’s a smart kid, and he’ll find his own way and his own path and succeed in whatever he does.”
Lee is thankful his sons have such a good relationship. When Mitchell was still in high school, Geoff began touting his younger brother as a future first- or second-round pick.
“We’ve had questions since this all took place, ‘How does Geoffrey feel about this?’ ” Lee said. “Geoffrey is absolutely thrilled. He’s never been jealous, has always said that Mitchell’s a better athlete than he is, has always suggested that Mitchell would be a first- or second-rounder, has always been supportive of Mitchell through the entire process. So it’s just wonderful to see.”
Geoff is definitely proud, and he believes the Browns made the right choice at No. 37.
“He’s tough,” Geoff said of Mitchell. “He’s going to work hard. He studies his film. He’s a complete player. You might not think he’s the best athlete, but he’s a sneaky athlete. The thing about him is he gets the job done no matter what it takes.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.