By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Welcome to the very first edition of the 2021 Layup Drill. This month, we take a look at the first Chinese-born college football player scoring a touchdown and the winding road of Jeremy Lin.
Jackson He became the first known Chinese-born football player to score a touchdown in a Football Subdivision (FBS) game when he plowed his way into the endzone against rival Arizona this past December. His story from growing up in China to a walk-on role as a running back for the Arizona State Sun Devils is one of perseverance and love of football.
He Peizhang (aka Jackson, the name he picked since he was a fan of Michael) grew up in Shaoguan, China where academics took up most of his life.
Concerned with his opportunities for the future, He was sent to a small private school in San Diego when he was 17. Not having a choice, He was sent to America not knowing the language. Discovered by the school’s football coach, he was recruited to play due to the lack of available bodies for the team. He found a niche with the sport. He decided to return to private school to play another year of football as he decided on which college to attend. As a result, he was given a shot to play at a small college in North Dakota the following fall.
But He could not adjust to the cold weather or the offensive style of play.
After a year there, he returned to China where he played American club football. Wanting another shot in the U.S., He returned to America where he enrolled at Arizona State last year. He did not have a scholarship, but was determined to play. He walked into the Student-Athlete Facility and told the team he wanted to walk on to the team. After watching game film of his prior college games, he was allowed to walk-on for the Sun Devils. Although a walk-on, He’s work ethic and personality has made him a cult hero.
The name on the back of his jersey is in Chinese, in honor of his heritage.
The 5’9”, 220-pound running back was ecstatic about his touchdown and in a post-game interview, he made sure that people knew that Chinese could play the game.
“Chinese can ball, too, you know? Yep.” He added, “I may be the first one to score, but I won’t be the last.”
Jeremy Lin returning to Warriors?
Looking to rekindle his NBA career, Jeremy Lin was rumored to re-sign with the Golden State Warrior’s G League affiliate last month. However, due to rules related to obtaining a clearance from his old team in China, it could not happen. Lin, who was most previously in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors in a very minor role when the team won the NBA Championship, left to start a new chapter of his career playing in China for the Beijing Ducks. While Lin did well and actually played in the same league as his brother, the former NBA star, nicknamed ‘Linsanity,’ wanted one more shot at the NBA.
Also, an obstacle is that while the NBA started its season on Dec. 22 and is playing in empty arenas, the G-League, which is the ‘feeder’ league for prospects and those like Lin willing to play until they are ‘called up’ to play in the NBA has yet to start. When it does, it is eyeing playing a partial season in Orlando in a ‘bubble’ similar to the NBA’s summer season which saw it complete the 2019-2020 playing in Orlando, Florida at the Disney Campus.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions and the possibility of infections, the NBA is taking measures to ensure that players are kept safe and healthy. As a result, the G-League will start up but the possibility of players being brought up to an NBA roster is unlikely.
Due to quarantine issues, having a player come up to the NBA roster is a major undertaking and most teams would utilize this for younger prospects.
Although the Warriors are in need of help from a veteran like Lin, having him come into a situation mid-season in the NBA might be far-fetched.
Lin signed with the Warriors at the beginning of January and will play with their G-League team in Orlando. He will be one of the oldest players to be playing in the developmental league. Since he’s been in China, Lin has released a signature shoe this past fall through Chinese sports retailer Xtep.
The JLIN ONE is not available in the United States.
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.