After generating quite a buzz in college football, draft prospect Taylor Rapp is set to become the second Asian American in the NFL this year.
Before he makes his pro-football debut, the 21-year-old Washington Huskies safety received an uplifting message from two-time Super Bowl champion Hines Ward to prepare him for the challenges ahead.
Ward, who is also of Asian descent, tells the younger player that had to deal with prejudice and racism during his time in the NFL back in the late 90s and 2000s.
“I know you’ve heard it before: ’Asians can’t play football,’” Ward says in a promo video. “I still remember the first time I heard it. But I learned something too. those words can be a gift. You can feed off that energy. Turn that hate into wins.”
“So Asians can’t play football, huh? I’d say we’re pretty darn good,” the former Pittsburgh Steeler said.
Despite his athleticism and the undeniable the skill he shows to the field, the Korean American has found himself to be a target of bigotry throughout his NFL career.
In an earlier interview with ESPN, he lamented that he was often called the “Jackie Chan of football” as a joke.
As he went on to become one of the league’s most talented players, Ward has used his popularity to champion concerns faced by fellow Asian Americans.
Ward was even sworn into the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a group that seeks to help improve access to opportunities for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Like Ward, Rapp has faced similar discrimination in the past for being an Asian American football player.
“They make fun of how you look ― your eyes, the widened, slanted eyes,” he tells NFL.com in an earlier interview. “There were a few instances where I was called the Ch-word. It was offensive to me. It made me embarrassed of who I was. That’s why I never embraced it growing up. I was different than everyone else, and I didn’t want to be.”
Rapp, who takes great pride in his heritage, is also now hoping to become a role model for others.
“To me, it’s about gaining a platform that will help inspire a generation of Chinese and Asian American kids,” he was quoted as saying. “I don’t want to be just an answer to a trivia question; I want to inspire and have a real impact.”
Featured image via Instagram/NFL