ORLANDO, Fla. — There would typically be no reason for a starting offensive lineman for Nebraska to feel a connection to a player who finished his college career at Georgia 15 years ago.
Seung Hoon Choi was born in Seoul, South Korea, like former Bulldogs star Hines Ward.
Choi didn’t know about Ward, the now retired Super Bowl MVP receiver, until Choi began playing football as a sophomore at Christian High School in Lincoln.
“I followed him,” said Choi, a senior who started all 13 games at left guard this year. “He’s a big-timer in Seoul. I followed him quite a bit. I heard he was thinking about going to Nebraska, too.”
Ward’s final three choices out of Forest Park High School were Georgia, Nebraska and Tennessee. Ward was rated as the state’s top quarterback. He said back then that he picked Georgia because Eric Zeier was a senior and Nebraska’s Tommie Fraizer was just a junior.
Ward, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was born in Seoul to a Korean mother and African-American father. He moved to the U.S. when he was 1 and grew up in the Atlanta area in a single-parent home.
Ward founded the Hines Ward Helping Hands Korea Foundation as a tribute to his mother. It targets “biracial discrimination, especially as it occurs among the children of Korea,” according to the foundation’s website. He spent 11 days in South Korea in 2006 in his first trip there since he was born.
Choi’s uncle worked for the University of Nebraska as a researcher. He lived with his sister and cousins, who were going to school there when he first moved to Nebraska.
His parents still live in South Korea, but came to the U.S. to see their son play his last three games before returning home.
Choi, who joined the Cornhusker program as a walk-on, said Ward is an inspiration to him.
“I read stories about him and heard a lot of good things about him,” Choi said. “He’s a tremendous hard worker. I heard he was a fearless wide receiver out there.”
Choi said he thought of Ward when he found out that Georgia would play Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
“I was wondering if he was going to watch the game since it’s Georgia,” Choi said.