Inside his mother’s womb, Dat Nguyen escaped gunfire in a shrimp boat off the shores of Saigon, South Vietnam, nearly 40 years ago.
He was born in an Arkansas refugee camp, the youngest of six siblings, whose family later made their home in the South Texas town of Rockport.
A talented but undersized football player, he far exceeded expectations as an athlete, racking up national awards and school records at Texas A&M and then becoming the first Vietnamese American to suit up in the NFL.
A Dallas Cowboy for seven seasons, fans admired his work ethic and passion for the game.
After his football career, Dat worked as a linebackers coach for the Cowboys, then coach at his alma mater at Texas A&M. He is now enjoying life as a radio host in San Antonio and does talks about his faith.
At Texas A&M, Dat met his future wife Becky. They now have three daughters.
“His family overcame so many obstacles on their way to the United States,” said his wife, Becky. “His mother is the rock of that family. She is so faithful and goes to church and prays every day for each one of us. Dat has taken on that role in our family.”
In February of 2014, Among a slew of cameras and microphones on Thursday night prior to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Dat Nguyen smiled widest for the lens held the lowest.
One of his three daughters, 8-year-old Remi, grasped a camera phone and joined the crowd on a picture perfect night for the former Rockport-Fulton High, Texas A&M and Dallas Cowboys linebacker. A few feet from the media pack, Nguyen’s wife, Becky, glanced at Nguyen with the same adoration the couple possessed after meeting at A&M in the mid 1990s.
“Dat is just so humble — he’s taught me so much along the way,” Becky said. “Through everything, he’s been the same person I first met — from beginning to end. That’s a really neat thing about him.”
Nguyen, 38, was one of eight inductees into the hall, and at times he paused during an extraordinary speech to collect his emotions. He thanked former A&M coach R.C. Slocum for taking a chance on him out of Rockport-Fulton, and he expressed gratitude to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for gambling on him out of Texas A&M as a third-round selection.