World / Reporter's Journal

Chinese-American college football standout is new league's first pick

(China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-06-16 10:36

With the first pick in the first China Arena Football League draft, the Guangzhou Power decided to keep it in the family.

Marty Judge, the league's founder and chairman, held a slip of paper from Dick Vermeil, who coached the St. Louis Rams to victory in Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000.

"The Guangzhou Power have selected David Wang from Virginia Tech," bellowed the ebullient Judge, with a thrust of his fist and a wide smile.

Wang is the younger brother of the CAFL's vice-president of player development, Ed Wang, himself a former Hokie and NFL player. Chinese-American college football standout is new league's first pick

The first draft show for the CAFL, whose inaugural season will open on Oct 1, was streamed live globally on June 10.

A total of 120 players were selected over three hours by the original six teams - the Beijing Lions, the Shanghai Skywalkers, the Guangzhou Power, the Dalian Dragon Kings, the Shenzhen Naja and the Qingdao Clipper.

"I never, ever, had any doubt about the pick," Power coach Ernesto "Netto" Purnsley said of Wang. "David filled several needs, all important.He counts on my roster as a native player, since his parents (former Olympic athletes) are both from China, but I may have selected him anyway because he is just a superb lineman, and I was convinced I needed to build my team from the inside out."

"I really can't believe this," said Wang, an all-Atlantic Coast Conference center during his college days in Blacksburg, Virginia. "Who could have dreamed that I would return to my parents' homeland playing American football?"

"I couldn't be prouder of David," said his brother Ed. "Not only is he a great player, but he will represent our new league with class and leadership."

For his part, Ed was the first Chinese player to be drafted by the National Football League and was also an All-ACC lineman at Virginia Tech under legendary coach Frank Beamer. Now retired as a player, Ed runs the CAFL's Beijing office.

"David is a coach's dream," Ed Wang said. "He is fast, has good size (6-2, 300) and is very, very intelligent. He could play any of the interior positions, on either side of the ball."

David also excelled in the classroom; he was an All-Academic ACC selection and collected four degrees while competing in one of college football's Power 5 conferences.

"No brainer!" was the response by Ken Bozarth, AFL Global VP of operations, when China Daily asked about the selection of Wang. "Having a Chinese player that can play both center and guard is an advantage, as there are limits on how many foreign and Chinese can be on the field at one time. David has played at the highest level of Division 1 football and was invited to multiple camps for the NFL.

"David will become an instant fan favorite.Getting to play in the country where his parents excelled in track and field will be a proud moment for the entire Wang family," Bozarth said.

The next pick came from CAFL parent the Arena Football League. Joe Hills, who has scored a touchdown in 61 straight regular-season AFL games, was taken No. 2 overall by the Dalian Dragon Kings.

Hills, a receiver for the Jacksonville Sharks, was followed by Portland Steel quarterback Shane Austin, who will be the signal-caller for the Shanghai Skywalkers.

A total of 43 players with ties to the AFL were drafted by CAFL teams. Four of the six top quarterbacks drafted for the CAFL were once starters in the AFL (The AFL season concludes in the summer).

Only one Chinese quarterback, Xie Kun, was drafted by Shanghai in the final round.

In arena football, a team fields eight players at a time. Each CAFL roster features 10 foreign players and 10 Chinese, with two practice squad players (one foreign, one Chinese). There will be four foreign players and four Chinese players on the field at all times for each team.

"I think you will see most of the skill-position players being Chinese," Bozarth said. "We expect some players to possibly play both sides of the ball, which was originally the style for the indoor game known as Iron Man football."

Twenty current or former players of the AFL's Philadelphia Soul were among the 60 foreign players selected. Soul coach Clint Dolezel is the new head coach of the Beijing Lions.

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