The Jacksonville Jaguars came up short in their quest to lure Tim Tebow back to Florida, but the team has acquired the services of another young man who seems destined to become a fan favorite.
Meet Long Ding, a kicker with one burning desire: To unseat Josh Scobee and become the first native of China to play in the NFL.
Jaguars special teams coach John Bonamego says there's reason to believe after watching the 24-year-old kick in Friday's rookie minicamp:
"I think the kid legitimately has some talent," Bonamego told The Florida Times-Union. "He is a guy you pull for. Like all kickers coming out, he's got to sort of find himself. He is by no means a finished product, but he deserves to be here. I've seen better and I've seen a whole lot worse in camp. We'll see what happens."
Ding first arrived in the U.S. in 2007 from his home in Quig Doa, China. Given the chance to attend high school in New Hampshire as part of the IFAF/USA football program, Ding made significant progress as a kicker.
"That first year I played in New Hampshire it was pretty tough," Ding said. "I was learning a second language. I just realized how to play and learned the rules."
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Back in China, his father drives a truck and his mother is retired. They live in a quaint, two-bedroom apartment. Asked to describe the city, Ding cut to the chase: "A beer town," he said. "Very good beer."
Making an NFL team could mean iconic status for Ding back home, and he's aware of this: "If the dream comes true, that would be cool. Maybe close to Yao Ming. I don't know."
Ding is winning over teammates at a rapid clip and has only begun to author his NFL story.