By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
“I’m a big Chinese guy,” said Ed Wang, explaining his nickname, Godzilla.
Note that Wang is not Japanese.
“I tell [my former Virginia Tech teammates] that all the time,” Wang said, laughing. “But it’s all in fun.”
Wang, a left tackle from Virginia Tech, will be the first Chinese American football player to be drafted in next month’s National Football League (NFL) Draft.
The 6’5″, 314-pound lineman from Virginia comes from an athletic family. Both of his parents competed in track and field in the 1984 Olympics for China. His father is 6’2″ and his mother is 5’11″. His younger brother, David, also plays football at Virginia Tech.
Because he came from an athletic family, he was encouraged to participate in sports when he was 6 years old. Wang grew up in suburban Virginia. His parents maintained Chinese customs while integrating American traditions.
“We had the best of both worlds,” Wang said, recalling his childhood.
Wang last visited China nine years ago and he is planning to go back eventually. He was unable to visit Beijing during the Summer Olympics due to football. Wang is fluent in Mandarin, however, he admits to being “a little rusty” due to the lack of Mandarin speakers in his community.
On the field
Since his college football season ended, he has been working out and staying in shape. Wang’s draft prospects continue to rise due to impressive workouts in front of team scouts at the NFL Combine and pro day at Virginia Tech.
“It’s a waiting game,” Wang said, referring to the time leading up to the NFL Draft, which begins on April 22. Wang is projected to be drafted in the fourth or fifth round.
Wang is proud of his Chinese heritage and recognizes the significance of being the first Chinese American to be drafted in the NFL. “It’s going to mean the world to me. It will make me so happy. It will make my parents happy, too. I am doing it for them.”
Although he acknowledges that being the first Chinese American player does come with pressure, Wang tries to focus on football.
“I do [feel pressure] a little bit, but at the end of the day, it’s just about playing football.”
And Wang sure can play football. He was named the Gatorade State Player of the Year in high school in Virginia. He played tight end upon entering Virginia Tech and converted to offensive lineman due to his athleticism and size. His college play earned him praise from his coach.
“First of all, any time you talk about Ed Wang, you talk about a guy that cares,” said Virginia Tech Offensive Line Coach Curt Newsome. “Football is important to him. Ed is very intelligent … he’s football smart.
“I think Ed will have a great opportunity at the next level as a guy who is going to continue to improve,” Newsome added. “He is a good, solid person, an exceptional football player, and I think he has a great future.”
The day of the Virginia Tech shooting
While Wang has had a great career and experience at Virginia Tech, he recalls being on campus in April 2007 when Seung-Hui Cho shot at students and teachers, killing 32 people and wounding many others.
“It didn’t feel real,” said Wang. “I didn’t think it would happen. It was like a shock.”
On the morning of the shootings, Wang woke up at around 9 a.m. As he was getting ready for class, he heard the news.
“Everyone here [at Virginia Tech] is one big family,” Wang said. “[The shootings] made it a closer community.”
Wang says he does not recall any anti-Asian sentiment on campus after the shootings.
On being Asian in football
As a Chinese American football player, Wang has dealt with racism on the field. He has heard a few remarks in high school and college, but he recalls dealing with it more in middle school.
“Growing up, people made fun of me.” Usually, Wang was the only Asian on the football and basketball teams.
Wang graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in residential property management prior to the start of the 2009 college football season. In his spare time, he relaxes by playing video games on his Xbox 360.
During the NFL Draft, Wang will be with his family and friends waiting for his name to be called. He hopes that he will inspire other Chinese to play football. ♦
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.