Asian NFL Football Players
By Michelle Phipps-Evans
Edward Wang is changing the face of the history of the National Football League (NFL). In the 93-year history of the professional football league, Wang has the enviable distinction of becoming the first Chinese player ever drafted in the NFL. He was drafted by New York’s Buffalo Bills, who snagged him in the fifth round of the 2010 draft.
“It meant a lot to me to be able to accomplish that, ” said Wang, 26, an offensive tackle, about being the first Chinese drafted. “It has been a goal of mine and my parents since I was a child. To finally be able to do it was a great feeling.” Throughout NFL history, there have been a handful of players with roots in Asia such as Hines Ward, Patrick Chung and Kailee Wong but none have called China their family’s land of origin.
When Wang was drafted as the 140th pick, Doug Majeski, Buffalo’s Coordinator of College Scouting, was impressed by Wang’s transition from tight end to tackle at Virginia Tech.
“He’s got size. He’s got strength. He’s really a good athlete as far as his quickness and body control, ” said Majeski in published reports. “He’s gotten better each year, and we hope he still continues to improve for us. He plays well on his feet and he can run.”
“My goals are to help the team win in any way I can, ” Wang said. “In this league and in my life, winning is one of the most important things. We play the sport to win and that’s what I want to achieve in Philly.” So far, he said, everyone on the team has been welcoming and the city is “nice.”
Before soaring with the Eagles, Wang spent a year with California’s Oakland Raiders. He said there’s no “backstory on his moves to the three NFL teams since he’s been drafted.
“With both teams, I got hurt during training and it prevented me from playing, ” he explained. “That was the story of me leaving. I was not able to get evaluated because I wasn’t on the field so we went our separate ways.”
Unfortunately, Wang’s tenure with the Eagles was also short-lived. In Aug. of this year, Wang was released from the team. He had spent the majority of Training Camp nursing an injured knee, according to the Philadelphia Eagles website. (Wang was not available for comment at press time.)
Standing at 6 foot 5 inches tall, the 318 lbs. Wang was born in Fairfax, Va., to parents who were both track and field athletes for China in the 1984 Summer Olympics. His father, a former high jumper, is 6 foot 2 inches and his mother, a former hurdler, is 5 foot 11 inches.
“My parents (who were) athletes themselves definitely pushed me toward that career path as well, ” said Wang. “They trained me and still do to this day. Their help has never stopped.” He said his parents maintained Chinese customs while integrating American traditions.
“Both my parents did sports when they were children, so as a child that’s what I did, ” he said. “It was a way of life. Some kids played or watched TV, I played sports.”
Because of his size, he was nicknamed “Godzilla” later at college at Virginia Tech.
“As a child it was hard growing up at times. One positive thing about being so big is that I got along with the older crowd because I was the same size or bigger than them, ” he explained. “The negative was that I was Chinese and big so I got teased a lot.”
Wang, who was a left tackle on campus, talked about the university shooting in April 2007 when Seung-Hui Cho shot at students and teachers, killing 32 people and wounding several others. He said the shooting made the school community closer. His younger brother also plays football for the school.
Before attending Virginia Tech where he earned a degree in residential property management, Wang attended Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., where he was named the Gatorade State Player of the Year in 2004.
“Winning the Gatorade award was big for me because they only choose one person per state, ” he said. “It was a stepping stone toward where I wanted to be.”He was named to the 2009 All-ACC 2nd-team and started 36 consecutive games.
However, he added that he’s proud of being true to himself and his family.
“Sports doesn’t last forever but at the end of the day you will have to live with what kind of person you are, ” said Wang who recently got married. “Thanks to how my parents raised me I will be happy with that. I want the fans to remember what kind of person I was.”
For young Asians interested in being drafted by the NFL, Wang said, “I would say chase your goals and don’t let anyone tell you anything else.”
“There will be many haters in your life that will try to bring you down, ” said Wang who added that he wanted to encourage more Asian children to participate in sports and strive for their best. He has done many camps to help push the effort. “Ignore them and just focus on what you want to do and accomplish. Pick something important to you and remember why you’re doing it.”