Taylor Rapp, the newest member of a small group of Asian Americans to be drafted into the NFL, is aiming to become the Asian American role model he never had growing up.
Fresh from playing three standout seasons at Washington, Rapp was selected by defending NFC champions Los Angeles Rams as the 61st pick in the second round of the NFL draft in April.
Rapp and Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals are the only Asian-American players chosen for the league this year. Other Asian-American players who have made it to the NFL include veterans Hines Ward, Dat Nguyen, Johnnie Morton, and Eugene Chung.
The 21-year-old admitted in an interview with ESPN that it was not too long ago when he used to conceal his Chinese heritage out of shame.
“I remember being kind of ashamed of it because I didn’t necessarily look like everyone else, especially in grade school,” Rapp was quoted as saying.
“It’s not really so much about making history,” he added. “I just kind of want to be an inspiration to the kids that were in my position growing up who didn’t necessarily have someone to look up to in major sports, in football.”
His American father Chris Rapp, who worked in a steel mill in China, met his Chinese mother Chiyan at the place where she also worked as a translator. They moved to the United States where the NFL rookie was eventually raised. Rapp, who was born in Atlanta, grew up in the small Washington town of Bellingham.
Raised in a predominantly White neighborhood, Rapp and his older brother, Austin spent their youth concealing their Chinese backgrounds as best as they could in hopes of fitting in with their friends and classmates.
At their parents’ persuasion and support, both of them began involving themselves in sports, mostly baseball and football. While the brothers both excelled at football, they faced some struggle initially.
“It was hard to get recruited. I felt like I didn’t look like a typical football player to college coaches,” Rapp noted. “You don’t see a lot of football players who are Asian.”
When Rapp earned a scholarship to play at Washington, he was able to embrace his Chinese heritage as the school was in Seattle, a city with a large Asian American population.
According to his mom, he began to earn fans in his first year playing for Washington.
“There were little Asian kids who used to walk up, even their parents, who were so excited for Taylor,” said Chiyan. “They never really had someone for their kids to look up to and so from that point, I guess more, Taylor kind of realized it.”
Rapp also revealed that he had recently been responding to social media direct messages from young people who dream of following in his footsteps.
While Rapp has got his eyes on the prize of helping his new team make a return trip to the Super Bowl, he is also on a mission to prove that playing professional sports at the next level is possible for people of any racial background.
“I’m trying to change the narrative,” Rapp said. “Show that Asians can play and try to inspire young kids.”
Featured image via Instagram/trapp07