Getting to Know NFL hopeful Ed Wang
Back home for this 6-foot-5, 315-pound tackle's parents, is Beijing, China. Not exactly football country. Wang was born and raised in Virginia, but both parents are Chinese. Robert and Nancy met as members of China's Olympic movement in the 1970s -- he a high-jumper and she a hurdler. They competed in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles before immigrating to the United States.
"Just the other day, my dad was talking about how after he sends videos of me, [family members] always call and ask, 'what's he doing on this play? Why is he running in that direction? What does it mean when he's hitting another player?'" Ed Wang said. "They don't really know a lot, but they're learning and asking questions."
Many football fans don't know a lot about Ed Wang. But they should. He hits people and he does it so well that Wang will become the first Chinese-American player drafted into the NFL, perhaps as high as the second-round by some projections.
It will be a significant barrier-breaking moment for Chinese-Americans, a proud moment for the parents who always convinced him to ignore perceptions. It also will be a potential marketing plum for the team that drafts him. But beyond the cultural significance, Wang is a humble, high-quality player who overcame stereotypes and could open a lot of doors for Asian-Americans.
"I've embraced it," Wang said. "I definitely take pride that I could be the first Chinese-American to play in the NFL. "My mom always told me to live a low-key life. You don't have to brag or talk about yourself a lot. Just do the right things and you'll be noticed.
Wang's Virginia Tech career certainly proved to be a marvelous one, known for all the right reasons. He was a popular figure on campus, one of the many campus leaders and athletes looked upon for support after the 2007 shootings that killed 32 on the Hokies' campus. After switching from tight end to the offensive line, Wang started 34 consecutive games, mostly at left tackle. He has since wowed scouts at the Senior Bowl and put together impressive numbers at the NFL Combine.
"I started playing when I was six," Wang said. "My parents didn't know anything about football and neither did I. We learned it together."
His career always was one of overcoming stigmas, if not outright racism. Opponents and peers often made fun of Wang's heritage, his family, his name and his eyes.
"It was usually just black kids and white kids that played football," said Wang, who was named Virginia's high school player of the year in 2005. "My mom told me, 'You're going to have some of those things happening in your life. There are going to be people like that. But it's something you just have to put up with.' It was harder when I was younger, because I just didn't understand why they were doing those things. The way I've always approached it is, just take the opportunity and make the most of it and it will all work out."
Even Wang's Hokies teammates didn't always quite know what to make of their Asian teammate, or even the basics of pop-culture Geography. When Wang first arrived on campus, someone gave Wang the nickname, "Godzilla," which is a Japanese character. The name stuck.
The next time Wang's parents write or e-mail relatives, they're going to have some more explaining to do. What is this NFL?
"It's a dream come true," Wang said.