Even though football is an American sport, a few ex-NFL players from Asia thrilled the crowd in the 1980s and 1990s. But there haven’t been many elite Asian footballers in past few years in any American football team.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of Asian athletes in other American sports, and they are excelling. For instance, the youth of today is familiar with NBA player Jeremy Lin, yet there are currently no recognizable Asian NFL players. That is why the question “Are there any Asian NFL players?” is frequently asked.
There may not have been many Asian footballers in past few years. However, there were a substantial number of Asian Americans in the NFL in the 1990s.
We have compiled a catalog of 10 former NFL players of Asian ancestry who excelled in the National Football League after researching the NFL’s history from the very earliest stages.
Top 10 Players of NFL History and their NFL Career
#1 John Lee
The first Asian player selected by the NFL and play in the NFL, John Lee, is a Korean who did placekicking for the UCLA Bruins in NCAA football, where he was awarded an All-American twice. He was nominated to the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame thereafter in 2001. Lee began his career as the 32nd overall draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the NCAA rather than the NFL, his performance was more successful. John Lee, however, participated in three Rose Bowls in 1983, 1984, and 1986. Later, he was acquired by the LA Raiders for the 1988 campaign.
#2 Hines Ward
In the 1998 draft, The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Hines Ward, a South Korean NFL player. Eventually, in 2011, he stopped playing and retired. Hines Ward played his whole career with the Steelers, where he rose to the position of receiving leader all-time as a South Korean hero.
Ward earned two Super Bowls and four Pro Bowls during his time with the Steelers. Because of his outstanding hard work in Super Bowl XL, Ward was named the Super Bowl MVP. He also received various additional honors.
Of the eleven NFL players with more than a thousand career receptions, Ward was one of them. Given his professional accomplishments and recognition, it wouldn’t be incorrect to place him among the greatest NFL players ever.
#3 Roman Gabriel
The Los Angeles Rams selected Roman Gabriel, the first quarterback of Filipino descent, in the 1962 NFL Draft. He is regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in NFL history from the 1960s through 1970s. Gabriel worked hard competing for the Los Angeles Rams for 11 whole years and then he played the Eagles for 5 years throughout his professional life.
Gabriel won four Pro Bowl championships, among other accolades, but the super bowl eluded him. He did, however, win the NFL Comeback Player of the Year title in 1969 and went on to become the MVP. The only quarterback from that time period with the “lowest interception percentage” is Roman Gabriel. He retired and stopped playing in 1977 and thereafter worked as a coach.
#4 Tedy Bruschi
Bruschi, a Filipino American, has won the Super Bowl three times and Pro Bowl once. His professional career got off to a good start in 1996 with the New England Patriots. Nevertheless, he participated in 189 matches for the Patriots before he stopped playing and retired, he started as a player 139 out of 189 of them. In addition, he had 1110 tackles, had 12 interceptions, and 3.5 sacks.
Tedy excelled at college football as well. He was consequently admitted in 2013 to the College Football Hall of Fame. Additionally, Bruschi has a singular record. He was the NFL player who scored touchdowns after returning four straight interceptions. He retired in 2009 with all the records and accomplishments. Bruschi is regarded as one of the top Asian NFL players due to his 13 years of steady play.
#5 Dat Nguyen
Nguyen played in the NFL for the first player who is a Vietnamese-American and was honored as an All-Pro. He was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1999 draft, and he performed there for 7 years.
He participated in 90 games in all, recording 516 tackles, 7 interceptions, and 6.0 quarterback sacks. Although his time in the NFL was limited, he had a memorable collegiate football career that earned him induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.
After retiring in 2005, Dat Nguyen later served as a coach for the Texas A&M Aggies and the Cowboys.
#6 Johnnie Morton
Even though Morton gave everything he had for the teams, sadly, they were unable to return the favor. No one on his team won an award in his 11-year career. Morton also played with the Chiefs and 49ers in addition to the Detroit Lions, where he was drafted originally.
He was a wide receiver on the field. Morton had a total of 624 receptions for 8719 receiving yards during the course of his career. He also scored 43 touchdowns.
#7 Brandon Chillar
Sanjay Beach was the first Indian-American player in the NFL, and Chillar is the second. In 2004, the St. Louis Rams drafted Chillar, who went on to play for the Packers. Chillar’s greatest accomplishment was winning a Super Bowl over the brief 6-year span of his NFL career.
Chillar completed 327 tackles in his brief career, including 8.5 sacks and 6 caused fumbles. He started 32 of the 34 games he played for the Packer, where he had the most success. In 2011, he left the NFL and became an advisor for the Elite Football League of India.
#8 Eugene Chung
From 1992 through 2000, Chung was a full-time offensive tackle. He participated in practice rounds with two additional teams and played on four different teams over the course of these eight years. He was selected by the Patriots in the 1992 NFL Draft.
He may not have had many achievements as a player, yet as a football coach, he has achieved great success. His career flourished with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he worked as an assistant offensive line coach and tight ends coach. Chung served as the Chiefs’ offensive line’s assistant coach as well. His contract with the Eagles expired in 2019, and he did not play for any team in 2020.
#9 Ben Leber
Leber, a football player who is half Korean, started his NFL career in 2002 with the San Diego Chargers before moving on to the Vikings. He recorded 496 tackles, 24 sacks, and 5 interceptions throughout the course of his career.
As a junior, Ben began playing football and was selected for numerous high school All-America teams. He moved to play linebacker at the college level.
He has only two All-Big 12 selections as notable accomplishments. After looking for teams that could be interested, he retired and stopped playing in 2012.
#10 Will Demps
Demps was a former American football safety/defensive player who was half Korean. In 2002, the Ravens were where he began his NFL career. He later participated for the Texans as well as Giants. He was not selected by the Ravens in the 2002 draft, but they still signed him, and he played for them until 2005. However, the Ravens kept him on the roster for all 16 starts in 2004.
Demps has made 418 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 6 interceptions during his NFL career. He also twice received the First-Team All-MWC honor.
This concludes our list of Asian American/ Asian players in the NFL draft. There were also other players who played in New England patriots, Arizona Cardinals, New York giants, New York jets, Seattle Seahawks, and Houston Texans but we did not include them in our list. So these are the players from the recent decades who are Asian descent. Hope you enjoyed it.