Mahdavi, Ben : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Mahdavi, Ben

A former walk-on, Mahdavi's hard work and determination made him an All-Pac 10 honorable mention pick and the the University of Washington's defensive captain in 2002. Mahdavi was also the team's Defensive MVP (voted by players) and recipient of the Chuck Niemi Big Hit Award in 2001. Ben signed with the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL in April, 2003, as a non-drafted free agent. At the beginning of August, however, he was placed on injured reserve Rookie following foot surgery. Mahdavi suffered a stress fracture during the first day of live contact. He did not play during the 2003 season.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. February 27, 1980

Career Highlights:
The son of a Jewish mother and an Iranian father, Mahdavi grew up on Mercer Island in Washington with his mother after his parents divorced. A very athletic youngster, he played various sports, including soccer, baseball, basketball, and wrestling. As a senior in high school, Mahdavi won the state wrestling championship as a heavyweight, despite being outweighed by 50 pounds by many of his opponents. His lack of size deterred many schools (including Washington) from offering Mahdavi a football scholarship, despite his explosiveness, determination, and toughness.

Mahdavi initially enrolled at the University of Utah, but after a few weeks, he realized he wanted to play for Washington. Although it was difficult to give up his scholarship, Mahdavi decided it was worth the hard work to play closer to home. His mother supported Ben's decision and got a job running the concession stands on game days at Husky Stadium (her first job was in grant writing). Ben, in the meantime, worked at a GNC store as he struggled to win a permanent spot on the Washington roster.

During the 1999 season, Mahdavi became the Huskies' long-snapper and lettered after appearing in ten games. In the first game of the season against BYU, Ben scored a touchdown on a fumbled punt for the Huskies' first points of the year. Washington finished the season with a 7-4-0 record and played in the Holiday Bowl, where they lost to No. 6 Kansas State 24-20.

During spring practice in 2000, Ben's hard work was rewarded by coach Rick Neuheisel, who gave Mahdavi a full scholarship just before the start of the 2000 season. Neuheisel, a former walk-on at UCLA and later a Rose Bowl MVP, said of Ben's hard work and perseverance, "I think there is a comparison between us walk-ons who made it...I think Ben is more talented than I was. But it's his intensity that sets him apart. He always felt 'I can do this.' He has great confidence."

At the beginning of the 2000 season, Ben continued to be the team's long snapper and also played inside linebacker. In the first game of the year against Idaho, Ben recovered a fumble and ran 35 yards for a touchdown. For the second year in a row, Mahdavi scored a touchdown in Washington's opening game of the season! Later in the game, Ben blocked an Idaho punt that set up another Washington touchdown; the Huskies won the game 44-20.

After the game, when Mahdavi was asked about his touchdown, he said, "I pretty much did what I've been taught. I bent over, bent my knees, picked up the ball from the side and then into the end zone...I thought this time was a little more exciting because I was playing linebacker...because, rather than falling on it like I did at BYU [in 1999], where I really didn't do much except for run down the field, here, I had to scoop it and score...And I'm not used to running that far."

By the fourth game of the 2000 season, Mahdavi had stepped into the starting role at inside linebacker as the Huskies climbed the polls. After a tough 23-16 loss to Oregon, Washington won their next seven games to capture the Pac-10 title, then defeated Purdue, 34-24, in the Rose Bowl. The Huskies finished the season with a 11-1 record and a No. 3 ranking (behind No. 2 Miami, even though Washington had defeated the Hurricanes earlier in the season). Mahdavi was the team's fourth leading tackler with 52 (23 unassisted and 29 assisted), including five for losses (two sacks).

In 2001, The Huskies ended the regular season with a record of 8-3 and ranked No. 19 in the AP poll. Mahdavi had an outstanding year, leading his team in tackles with 85 (40 unassisted), five sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and four fumble recoveries (he led the Pac 10 in this category). Ben was named honorable mention All-Pac 10 and second team Pac-10 All-Academic (a 3.10 GPA in Communications). Washington played Texas in the Holiday Bowl, but lost, 47-43, in one of the most exciting bowl games in recent history. At the end of the season, Mahdavi was named Football News first team All-Pac 10 and first team Jewish All-America by the Jewish Sports Review.

In 2002, Mahdavi was named team captain and the senior inside linebacker finished the 2002 season with 92 tackles (38 solo), including 11 for loss (two sacks). He also had one interception, one fumble recovery, and two forced fumbles. Washington finished the regular season with a record of 7-5 (4-4 in conference) after they defeated their rivals, and beat the No. 4 team in the nation, Washington State, 29-26, in triple overtime. Mahdavi registered a game-high 14 tackles in the game.

On December 31, the Huskies played Purdue in the Wells Fargo Sun Bowl, but lost the contest, 34-24. In the bowl game, Ben had eight tackles (five solo) and finished the year with 100 total tackles. On January 11, 2003, Mahdavi played for the West in the East-West Shrine Game and registered five tackles (fourth most for the West).

Mercer Island, Washington

Career Dates:
Mahdavi played linebacker at Washington from 1999-2003.

Physical description:
6'2", 240 pounds

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Jewish Sports Review, September/October 2000 issue (Vol. 2, No. 8, Issue 21)