Jackson’s adventures as an international student began in the usual way.
It is native to Shaoguan, China, in Guangdong Province, about 175 miles north of Hong Kong in southern China. His parents sent him to San Diego, where he finished high school for a year and then attended an American university. She probably would have been, had it not been for a chance encounter with a parent on campus shortly after her arrival.
They just came at me, like: Hey, you’re pretty big, man, you look like a football player, remember? We have to play.
At the age of 23, he was 17 years old and only vaguely knew football existed, but decided to give it a shot. Okay, he told his parents. I have nothing else to do.
What started as a hobby to help him acclimate to a new country became a passion and led to a series of events that took him from San Diego, North Dakota, to China and, last fall, to Arizona State, where he joined the Sun Devils as a running back. At the Territory Cup on the 11th. In December, he entered the game in the fourth quarter and provided one of the most talked-about moments of the college football season when he scored the final touchdown in ASU’s 70-7 victory.
With his name in Chinese characters on the back of a T-shirt, the touchdown went viral. His name went viral on Twitter and caught the attention of the media in China, as he is believed to be the first player of Chinese descent to score a touchdown in a major college football game.
Jackson He was born in Shaoguan, China and joined the @ASUFootball team in 2019.
He made his first TD tonight pic.twitter.com/hvZ5evpLgk
– ESPN (@espn) December 12, 2020
Her jersey was sent to the College Football Hall of Fame this week, where it is expected to be displayed alongside the jersey of another player, Vanderbilt forward Sarah Fuller, who became the first woman to score in an FBS game this season.
For those who were there when he first became involved in the sport, the idea of his jersey being displayed in Atlanta among these football legends is surreal. Not only was everything about this sport completely new to him, but he learned it while learning English. He was placed in the high school curriculum with other Chinese students and regularly spoke Mandarin outside of school.
My English wasn’t that good, so when I said something, I just said some very, very confusing words, he said. So my teammates couldn’t help me that much because they didn’t even understand what I was saying.
I kept talking to them. I don’t want to be shy, and I was talking to them the whole time, and they finally felt it: Oh, he said that. And then they helped me a lot with football and stuff.
His name is He Peizhang, the family name first given in China, but he chose Jackson as his American name upon arrival to facilitate communication. His Michael Jackson fans are inspired by him.
Christian Dufresne, the varsity quarterback and son of the principal, said he was self-critical when he remembered the language barrier – at least compared to the experiences of many other international students at the school.
According to Dufres, Jackson was one of those who really integrated well with all the students already on campus precisely because he understood English so well and spoke it very well. This way we can handle it quite easily compared to other students who may have already studied the language.
He was one of two Chinese students who came to play soccer that day. Until the other player stayed, he immediately threw himself into the sport.
He had a good attitude and was a big guy, so we thought he could help us on the line, said Ron Allen, his high school coach.
Lutheran, which has since been renamed Victory Christian Academy, is a small school with limited enrollment. Although new to the sport, it was used as both an offensive guard and defensive line in its inaugural season. He said he didn’t tell his parents he was joining the football team until after a few games because they weren’t for the idea at first.
The news they heard about football was concussions and broken bones, he said. And they’ve been supporting each other ever since.
This first season had to take place – inside and out. He completed the required program of study and could have gone to college, but after an extra year of study he decided to come back. Football brought him back.
Error! The file name is not specified. Jackson set a national trend after scoring his first touchdown for Arizona State. AP Photo/Rick Scooteri
Things started to get better in the off-season. Allen acknowledged that his athleticism would be better suited for the return run, showing he could be a Bears ball carrier.
I am: Dude, I’m going to baseball this season and then I’m going to D-I, he said. It was easier with the rules and everything, but it was still my second year and my first return. I like to run and run people over. There were still a lot of technical things I needed to work on.
His first career goal occurred near the goal line after a long Lutheran push. As he later showed at Arizona State, his physique was considered an advantage in short-yardage situations. Again he stumbled and the other team picked up the ball and almost sent it back for a touchdown.
Then our coach said: They have to take this football to school every day, Dufresne said. And he did. Literally until the end of football season, and honestly for the rest of the school year, he carried the ball with him in each of his classes. I wore it at lunch and if I remember correctly, it never came back that season.
Due to a lack of personnel, the team shortened its season and only played seven games, but it showed enough promise to keep its football dream alive. Allen contacted his alma mater, the University of Jamestown, an NAIA school in North Dakota, and coach Josh Kittell agreed to give him a chance.
Physically, he was talented, Kittell said. He was a strong boy who could run.
But going from a small high school to college ball, even at the NAIA level, was important and especially difficult for someone so new to the sport. Jamestown came up with the idea of using him as a defensive back or eventually, but ended up putting him back to running where he was most comfortable.
In his first year on campus, he carried the ball 80 times for 353 yards and a touchdown, which was his only season for the Jimmies in 2017. The two years he spent at North Dakota were crucial to his own development as a player, and he was then able to continue at Arizona State, but perhaps most importantly for him, he hasn’t been involved in football since.
He said it was cold. It was the first time I saw snow. I was excited for a few days, but then I was so tired of the snow.
After a change of coach, he decided to return to China with the goal of one day playing college football at another school. Although football is not popular in China, it has found a league to play in. The quality of the game was not what he was used to, but it kept him on his toes when planning his next move.
I applied to several schools and fortunately Arizona State accepted me, he says. Then I did some research on the internet and found out that there is a lot of sunshine in Arizona.
That’s all he needed to hear.
Shortly after arriving on campus in October 2019, he went to the football building, went to the third floor and told the front desk that he was there to join the football team. The campus scout met him, showed him his best Jamestown moments and soon after he was training with the team.
He immediately became a source of positive energy around the program and developed a good relationship with the equipment team.
One day he came to the window and started talking: You know what would be funny? If I had my last name in Chinese on my back. Wouldn’t that be really cool? Jerry Nealley, Senior Equipment Operations Coordinator for the CHA, said. We all looked at him and thought: We’re not sure we can do it, but we’ll see for you.
Intern Jared Kutsch entered the Google translation of his real name, He Peizhang, and the program correctly returned the Chinese characters – 何佩璋 – sent to Adidas to create a badge. The staff wanted it to be a surprise for him, so they didn’t check with him to make sure it was correct before sending the request, and they were a little concerned about showing him the finished product when he returned in a few weeks.
When they took the shirt off, I cried, he said. Seeing my real name on the back of a t-shirt means something else. And it was in Chinese letters, which is even crazier. I really appreciate people with equipment. I love him so much. I love her.
Error! The file name is not specified. Jackson He was moved to tears when he saw his real name on the jersey. Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Before the start of the season, the Arizona Department of Sports Information sent out a request to its counterparts across the country: Has there ever been a player of Chinese descent at the FBS level? The investigation revealed no one. When he scored against Arizona, he was thought to be the first Chinese-born to do so.
Turns out that wasn’t entirely true. A few weeks after he landed, news reached the state of Arizona that the award likely belonged to Herman Lam, a Georgia Tech recipient from 1969 to 1971, born in Hong Kong – then under British rule – and who moved to Augusta, Georgia at the age of nine. Lamb picked up touchdown passes against Notre Dame and Duke in 1969 and finished the season leading the Yellow Jackets in receiving yards (273).
After he scored the touchdown, several members of his family and others shared stories about his performance with Lam. Lam didn’t mind that his own performance seemed to go down in history, but he was surprised that she had been alone for so long.
My impression was this: How is it between the way I did it 50 years ago and today? You’re telling me that no Chinese player has scored a touchdown? Lahm told ESPN. I would think there were other people. They may not have been born in China, but they may have been born in the United States in the name of Chinese parents. So it’s pretty interesting.
Whatever the story around him, the touchdown confirmed that he was right to pursue his football dream.
I appreciate all the support and love from the people at home and here, he said. But it has made me want to improve, to surpass myself, because my expectations of me keep getting higher. I have to do better every day.
The junior in the red shirt has two years left and doesn’t know what to expect in the future. Although he never slighted anyone, he cemented a special place in Arizona history.
I have a game ball to pass out. …. JACKSON ONE. @HermEdwards
In the locker room of the Territorial Champions Cup pic.twitter.com/REzVclVcQ9
– Sun Devil Football (@ASUF Football) December 12, 2020
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