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Underneath the Football Jersey Hides an Inspirational Figure


By Pauline Moc, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing

On November 15th, Ky-Phong Tran, a graduate student in UC Riverside’s MFA program in Creative Writing, was bestowed the national award in Arts, Sports, and Entertainment at the First National Ethnic Media Awards held in Washington D.C. Tran’s award-winning story “So Long, Dat Nguyen,” which appeared in Nguoi Viet Daily News, recounts the factual tale of Dat Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American who participated in America’s most physical sport—football. Tran describes Nguyen with admiration:

“He wasn’t some wimpy kicker or punter, or some runt receiver, but a middle linebacker in the thick of all the action: sacking quarterbacks, popping running backs, causing fumbles and intercepting passes. Linebacker, the toughest position in football, where legendary names like Taylor and Singletary are now joined by Nguyen.”

Before the narrative, Tran asks what seems to be a rhetorical question: “Just what did the Vietnamese American football player truly mean to America?” Although the story first focused on Nguyen’s athletic accomplishments, the purpose of the story was not only to celebrate Nguyen as an athlete, but as an inspirational figure breaking racial boundaries and as a friend.

Tran received his bachelor’s degree in history and his master’s in Asian American Studies from UCLA. His work has been published in Good News, Word is Bond, Nguoi Viet Daily News, Asian American Movement Ezine, Nha Magazine, and Writers Against War. He is currently working on his first novel.


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