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Senior Stories: Football's Cheng Ho

Pictured: Cheng Ho in action against Dartmouth.
Photo: Dave Silverman
Article by Kurt Svoboda

Cheng Ho's personal story is a remarkable one and has been well-covered by national media. A native of Taiwan, Cheng has embraced American football, rising to All-Ivy League status. Along the way, he has embraced his Harvard experience - and Harvard has embraced Cheng. He can often be seen at other sporting events, art exhibits - you name it. Now, Cheng is completing the circle and bringing the sport to his native China after recently taking part of an initiative with the National Football League to help raise awareness of the game.

"Cheng Ho is such a great kid and he's a tremendous competitor," states Tim Murphy, the Thomas Stephenson Family Head Coach for Harvard Football. "On the field he doesn't lack confidence, he doesn't lack toughness, and he doesn't lack intensity. Off the field, I think he has gets everything he can out of his time here. He is a great ambassador for Harvard football and for the role that sports play in education."

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Q: What is your concentration? 
A: I'm concentrating in Economics with a secondary field in Psychology

Q: How has Harvard football prepared you for life? 
A: It has prepared me for many, if not all, aspects of  my life, and this is not an overstatement at all. If you look closely at our schedule, we play football for about 10 weeks, and we spend the remaining weeks training with our "hair on fire". Through this intense process, we face many challenges and adversities. Yet, we embrace and overcome these challenges while remaining focused on our goals. As a result, we adapt and develop great character, courage, perseverance, positive attitude, and work ethic. Many can attest to it, these qualities are absolutely transferrable and have many parallels in many aspects of our lives. 

Q: What are the best parts of being a student-athlete here? 
A: Unlimited ice cream sandwiches, chocolate milk, the historic coliseum-looking stadium with the "I-think-it-would-make-me-run-faster" FieldTurf, plasma screen TVs and projectors in our locker room, a weight room that can fit at least 2000 people, and most importantly, all of my teammates/brothers. 

Q: Why did you choose Harvard? 
A: As many would agree, Harvard sells itself.  Boston is just a great college town and a HUGE sports nation. I went to the Sox game for the first time this summer, and I'm planning on to check out the Celtics and Patriots game sometime this year. And lastly: the people! Seriously, if you ever get a chance, take some time and meet people outside of your social circle.  Chances are you probably would discover some amazing stories and make some great connections. Harvard is great because of its people. 

Q: If you could be anyone for a day, who would it be and why? 
A: Tim Murphy. So, I can finally experience for the first time what it's like to be able to speak properly and articulately. 

Q: What is your best moment on the football field? 
A: It's a moment being made everyday - from now until Nov. 21st. 

Q; Which of your teammates is most likely to...
...play in the NFL? James Williams
...Become a college football coach? Carl Ehrlich
....be elected President?  Sean Hayes and his campaign logo should be "Say Now!" or "Do It For Da Kidz or See Ya!" 
....join the circus? Derrick Barker

Q: Do you attend Harvard sporting events other than football games? 
A: Many of my block-mates are on the basketball team, so I go to most, if not all, of the home games. Sometimes I'll be all decked out at a basketball game. I also enjoyed watching women's and men's hockey, softball, and lacrosse. I just love Harvard sports.

Q: Whats the best part about a home football day?
A: Need I say more? Definitely Harvard Stadium! A great complement to a home football day would be our "walk-around" of the coliseum during pre-game and singing 10,000 men of Harvard followed by the family reception after the game. 

Q: You were recently profiled by the NFL for a series in China. What was that like? 
A: It was unbelievable. After our team meeting, I went out to the stadium to meet the TV crew. Little did I expect, there were like 30+ people there waiting for me. I was shocked. There were cameras everywhere. Most of our filming took place at the stadium, and people were told not to enter the stadium during the filming session. As much as I usually enjoy the attention, I felt slightly embarrassed. I was embarrassed with the amount of the attention that was on me and the inconvenience that was created to the other joggers who could not enter the stadium.

Fortunately, I felt more comfortable as the show went on. NFL China is trying very hard to promote American football and decided to create a reality show called "NFL Blitz" that consists of 16 episodes to promote the sport. I'm very lucky and glad to be involved in one of the episodes. In my episode, I share my background, and host a "running back challenge" contest. The contestants include all five members of the Taiwanese rock band Mayday, the hostess, and a female singer. The best part? I get to speak my rusty mandarin throughout the whole episode. 

Q: I hear that you scored phone numbers from the hostess and the female singer from the band Mayday - any truth to that? 
A: Ha. We took a few pictures, but no numbers. Just email address. They told me to look them up if I'm ever back in Taiwan. Can you spring for a plane ticket for me? 

Q: What do you think about potentially being the face of American football in China? 
A: I'm humbled by it. It really would be an honor. You know, football has been great to me. Without football, I would not be at Harvard right now. Given my background, I can really look at football and say that this sport basically "saved" my life. I was able to make many friends and to connect with the American world/culture at an accelerated rate because of this sport. I'd absolutely love sharing my experiences to anyone, and I'd also love to have other people to experience the intangibles, joy, and fulfillment that football has brought me. It opened up a new world for me and gave me opportunities, visions, and values that I may not otherwise obtain. I hope this is something that more people can experience and understand, specifically in China, and I'd love to promote that because I've been given so much.  

Q: A lot of people know your personal and athletic story. Anything that we don't know about you that might surprise people?
A: I played nose guard at Avon Old Farms during my PG year. Yup. I did. Also, I did ballet when I was 5 or 6. Surprisingly, it was very short-lived. 

Q: You volunteered at the Golden Harvest Food Bank. What is that like?
A: Basically, in high school, I'd go to the Golden Harvest Food Bank on Sundays. We collect donations of food from various sources - individuals, private homes, and local businesses. We would sort out and distribute these donations to the needy. I'm very blessed and grateful with what I have been given. It's only appropriate and necessary to give back to the communities. It's very fulfilling.