The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Advertisement
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
Advertisement
Texas A&M pitcher Evan Aschenbeck (53) reacts after throwing the final strike out during Texas A&M’s game against Mississippi State on Saturday, March 23, 2024, at Olsen Field. (Chris Swann/ The Battalion)
Down but not out
Neil Jhurani, Sports Writer • May 23, 2024

A warm, summer evening bestowed Hoover, Alabama on Wednesday night when the No. 4 Texas A&M Aggies faced the No. 15 Mississippi State Bulldogs...

Advertisement
Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
Bee-hind the scenes
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • May 1, 2024

The speakers turn on. Static clicks. And a voice reads “Your starting lineup for the Texas A&M Aggies is …” Spectators hear that...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
'I was terrified'
April 25, 2024
Scenes from 74
Scenes from '74
April 25, 2024
Advertisement
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

From one underdog to another: Former linebacker gives advice, opinion on 2015 football season

New+ESPN+San+Antonio+1250AM+Host+and+Former+Dallas+Cowboy+and+Coach%2C+Dat+Nguyen
Delton M. Childs III

New ESPN San Antonio 1250AM Host and Former Dallas Cowboy and Coach, Dat Nguyen

The Texas A&M football team will on many occasions be the underdog this season, much like 1990’s Aggie linebacker Dat Nguyen was back in his day.

While in his mother’s womb, Dat’s parents fled the war in Vietnam and faced death on numerous instances before escaping to America on a boat.

Nineteen years later, Nguyen stepped foot on A&M’s campus for the first time. A few years after that, he would go down in Aggie lore.

Today, Nguyen co-hosts a show for San Antonio’s ESPN radio each weekday from 4-7 p.m., and covers everything from Big 12 sports to Aggie football. He also uses his life story to inspire kids.

“I let them know that you’re going to have some struggles and that it’s not going to be easy; college isn’t easy,” Nguyen said. “You will have some adversity and some things are going to happen, but you keep working hard, study and keep your nose clean and you’ll have a chance to succeed.”

Nguyen finished his career holding the school record for most tackles in a career with 517 — a record still untouched today.

He also secured the Bednarik and Lombardi awards, and his accomplishments earned him a third-round draft pick to the Dallas Cowboys, making him the first Vietnamese-American to play in the NFL.

Now, he is a finalist for the College Football Hall of Fame. Nguyen said he credits his success to the other 10 players on the field and at practice.

“I needed the other 100 guys in practice to accomplish what I did and all the other guys we used to call the ‘smurfs,’” Nguyen said. “I was a smurf, I redshirted and had to wear a blue jersey during practice. I was a dummy…I had to go through the entire process of a redshirt freshman. But all those guys that were in scout team and did all that leading up to games, those guys got me better.”

After retiring from the Cowboys in 2006 because of various injuries, Nguyen jumped around until he finally landed a job on Mike Sherman’s coaching staff at A&M in 2010 as the inside linebackers coach. The next season, Aggie linebacker Von Miller went onto win the Dick Butkus Award.

“I didn’t realize I was impacting those young men as much as I was until now,” Nguyen said. “I tried to give them space, but I really realized what you said and how you act and how you carry yourself impact those young men. It was very rewarding, and it was something that I did when I was there.”

Nguyen took the job at ESPN radio and said it was best for his family. At the time, his family consisted of his wife and three kids, including a two-month newborn. Nguyen said he’s loved every minute of A&M’s head coach Kevin Sumlin and that the move to the SEC gives the Aggies an advantage in a way most wouldn’t think about.

“I think the best move that we’ve made is being in the SEC,” Nguyen said. “We are the furthest team west in the SEC, so I think that allows to recruit more of Arizona’s, California’s or anything else on the west side. That’s an advantage for us.”

Nguyen, who lives in Boerne, Texas now, said he doesn’t often get the chance to visit College Station anymore. But on Aug. 24, Nguyen made the trip to promote Direct TV in the MSC Barnes and Noble.

“I’m teamed up with Direct TV and the NFL Sunday Ticket,” Nguyen said. “They are now expanding to students to have a chance to watch and stream their favorite NFL team … That’s why I came to College Station, to help promote the NFL Sunday Ticket, which you can get on Nflsundayticket.tv and if you are a student, it’s Nflsundayticket.tvu.”

Seeing new Kyle Field during his time on campus left him dumbfounded — dumbfounded and livid.

“I was just drooling — I feel like I was cheated because I don’t get to play in it,” Nguyen said. “It seems like every year there’s something new that’s getting renovated or built…Just seeing how far A&M has come with looking at Kyle Field and seeing the 12th Man statue, that was pretty amazing.”

The former Aggie linebacker said this new Kyle Field will feature a rejuvenated defense that might raise some eyebrows.

“I never like predictions because I feel like it would jinx the team,” Nguyen said with a laugh. “I think in the last couple years we’ve been heavily on the offensive side, but it seems like the defense is going to be strong and the offense is going to be strong. So we are finally getting a team where overall there’s not many weaknesses … [defensive coordinator] John Chavis on top of that is almost like icing on a cake.”

Nguyen said complicating schemes only confuses players. The simpler the defense, the better the results. He said he expects that mindset and system out of Chavis.

“A lot of teams that are very good are the teams that are very simple in what they do,” Nguyen said. “That’s the most important thing for anybody is simplicity and execution … John Chavis is one of the best in the business, so whatever he’s doing has been great,” Nguyen said. “I don’t think he’ll change much about what he’s doing.”

Nguyen said A&M linebacker A.J. Hilliard in particular brings promise to the Aggie defense.

“I think A.J. Hilliard is one of my favorite players,” Nguyen said. “He’s one of those few players that can play all three downs — first, second and third downs. He’s good enough, quick enough and athletic enough to do that. Otaro [Alaka] is a good player and second year player so they will be good there too.”

With the departure of cornerback Deshazor Everett, Chavis took the initiative to move Brandon Williams from running back to cornerback. The depth chart released Tuesday showed that either Williams or Nick Harvey will start, while De’Vante Harris has the nod on the other side. Nguyen said he isn’t too worried about the inexperience of these players because of the athleticism they bring to the table and the receivers they practice against.

“The cornerback [position], I don’t think is a big deal because every day when you line up against Speedy Noil, Christian Kirk, Ricky Seals-Jones and Josh Reynolds,” Nguyen said. “You’re playing against some of the best receivers. There’s not going to be many teams that you play that have a foursome that good. All those practices and one-on-ones and seven-on-sevens can only benefit those cornerbacks.”

A&M is one of two teams out of the SEC West not ranked in the top 25. Being undersized for a linebacker and seemingly always having the odds against him, Nguyen was doubted his whole life. He said the Aggies merely need to chomp at the bit this year like his teammates and him did after losing to Nebraska 54-15 in the 1997 Big 12 Championship game.

In 1998, Nguyen led the Aggies back and defeated Kansas State 36-33 in triple overtime, marking the last conference championship hoisted by an A&M football team. Nguyen said the Aggies will go places if they have this same fighting mentality.

“We kept fighting, and all we wanted was an opportunity and we got that and won the game in triple overtime,” Nguyen said.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Battalion

Your donation will support the student journalists of Texas A&M University - College Station. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Battalion

Comments (0)

All The Battalion Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *