High School star athlete from California without a scholarship offer, hoping to walk-on a Division I program – oh, and he happens to be Asian; sound familiar? Meet Jeff Kim, Beckman Patriots’ standout Running Back. KoreAm profiles Kim’s accomplishments as one of the few Asian players to excel on the gridiron.
While I’m not expecting to see Kim on Sundays anytime soon (although, why not? he’s 6’1″, 195, runs a 4.4 with great vision/cutting ability), I’m hoping a few D-1 schools are smart enough to give him a shot.
And as a former Asian High School Running Back, let me tell you why this is the complete opposite of what that certain Taiwanese American who dribbles a basketball went through. All those misconceived perceptions and judgments go out the door once you put on the armor and step onto the battlefield. You are faceless and raceless, with the only hierarchy being separated by those who have heart and those who don’t. Yes, when you’re a football team made up of Koreans and Italians in a neighborhood dominated with Jews, you tend notice the disparities from town to town and even in your own backyard. But as you hear the last words of the “The Star Spangled Banner” blasted through the school loud speakers, there’s something just that happens that I can’t articulate without being corny and saying you’re allowed to be American for the next 60 minutes.
Once the game’s over, helmets are off and you go to shake the opponents’ hands, you’ll hear all types of awkwardness ranging from “Bro, you Asians played a great game” to “Damn, this N—-‘s Chinese?”. The sport of football allows that to be the height of racial curiosity or reverence. That’s it. Otherwise, it’s about your fight, about your teammates and about your school, and that’s a beautiful thing.
I’ll end on this note – as Jeff continues his athletic journey, I’m glad he has the support of his Coach throughout the process. Though I never played in college, I remember Coach Rorke vehemently supporting me and instilling the belief that I could play college ball if I wanted to (calm down, only Division III; I ran a 4.4 but was 130 pounds soaking wet). I didn’t necessarily get that encouragement from my parents: “We’re proud of you, thank God you’re not hurt, now focus on studying in college, son”. I don’t know if that’s the Kim family’s thought process, but it sure as hell won’t be mine and I’m pretty sure it won’t be Jeff’s when we’re lecturing our kids one day.
“You can do better next game son, set up your blocks and wait for your linemen!”
“God, I hope he’s not hurt, I know you can tough it out, get back in the game!”
“Make sure you’re going to class between practices!”
Rumble, young man, rumble.
Words by Charlie Hyun