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This NFL running back says football changed the course of his religious life

AJ Dillon of the Green Bay Packers had to choose between religion classes and football

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Green Bay Packers’ AJ Dillon runs a drill at his team’s practice field Tuesday, June 7, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis.

Green Bay Packers’ AJ Dillon runs a drill at the NFL football team’s practice field Tuesday, June 7, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis.

Morry Gash, Associated Press

Long before Green Bay Packers running back AJ Dillon was an NFL star, he was a kid juggling too many extracurricular activities. On the latest episode of “The Adam Schefter Podcast,” he described how his busy schedule led to an unfortunate choice between football and faith.

“All my games were when I’d have to go in for Hebrew school,” Dillon said.

The topic came up because Schefter, the senior NFL insider for ESPN, wanted to hear more about Dillon’s Jewish background.

The running back explained that his mom and many of his other family members are still active in Judaism, but that he’s not very observant anymore.

“I kind of got a little off of it when I started playing football,” he said.

However, Dillon said he still FaceTimes in to some of his family’s seder dinners, and that he calls his loved ones on Jewish holidays.

“I know my stuff,” he said about his familiarity with Jewish customs.

Dillon has also spoken about his Jewish upbringing on social media and at conferences. In July, he told a group of Jewish teens that he’s worked throughout his career to confront stereotypes about Jews, as the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle reported.

“Most people look at me and the last thought that comes across their mind is that you’re Jewish,” he said at the time.

Dillon told Schefter that he’s unsure if any other running backs in the NFL are Jewish, but that his own success has led to one of he and his mom’s favorite jokes.

He said they like to remember that back when the scheduling conflict between football and Hebrew school arose, she’d said that, if he wanted to stick with football, he’d “better be good at it.”

“It all worked out,” Dillon said to Schefter with a laugh.