Yaniv Kovalski is the first Israeli-born player to earn a college football scholarship in America. Yaniv Kovalski is the first Israeli-born player to earn a college football scholarship in America. Yaniv Kovalski got his start in the Israeli Football League. (Photo: Facebook)

Football player goes from Mediterranean to Massachusetts

Yaniv Kovalski is the first Israeli-born football player to earn a college scholarship in America.

When college football season begins this fall, there will be plenty of freshmen hoping to get their chance on the field. Yaniv Kovalski is one of them. The bearded, big and burly 23-year-old seems like a typical player. He's 6-foot-3, weighs 285 pounds and is hoping to achieve greatness.

But one thing separates him from his teammates. Kovalski is the first Israeli-born player to earn a college football scholarship in America.

So how did he get here? Let's trace his journey.

Kovalski was born in Jerusalem.

Beautiful lush landscape at JerusalemJerusalem's mix of ancient history and modern amenities make it one of the most visited cities in the world. (Photo: Roman Sigaev/Shutterstock)

He's a lot taller than his mom, Deana.


He learned how to play football by watching YouTube videos.

He played football in high school and later joined the Israeli Football League. (Many countries have American-style football leagues.)

Players from the Israeli Herzliya Hammers American football team gather in a circle before a gameMembers of the Herzliya Hammers get ready for a game in 2013 at the Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem, which was donated by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. (Photo: /US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Kovalski handled his own recruitment. He figured out how to edit YouTube highlight reels (like the one below) and would send them to schools with the subject line: “Yaniv Kovalski, 6’3” 295 lbs. OL from Israel w/ 1230 SATs.”

He is starting Stonehill College this fall, which has a Division II football program.

The former Ames estate was the first building of the Stonehill campus.The former Ames estate was the first building of the Stonehill campus in Easton, Massachusetts. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Stonehill is not too far from the home of the New England Patriots whose owner, Robert Kraft, helped create the Israeli Football League. This summer, Kraft traveled to the Mediterranean country with 19 NFL Hall of Famers.

He eats 8 meals a day.

Kovalski's got a big appetite.Kovalski's got a big appetite. (Photo: Facebook)

He's the life of the party wherever he goes.

Yaniv at an event in 2016.Yaniv at an event in 2016. (Photo: Facebook)

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