“I always thought I was too small. I thought I didn’t have enough to play football,” Vang said.
Standing at 5 feet 6 inches tall, the 34-year-old Vang is chasing a dream even his Highland Park high school football players envy.
The defensive coordinator is trying out for the NFL Regional Combine in Seattle next weekend and hopes to land a spot as an NFL kicker.
“Hey, we only live once. Why not? You gotta try. You gotta do it and tell yourself at least you tried it regardless of where it goes,” he said.
The former soccer player turned football fanatic never kicked until he started coaching at Highland Park seven years ago.
“Every time he kicks or punts everyone is like, ‘Who is that?'” David Zeitchick, head coach for Highland Park said.
Zeitchick called Vang a superior athlete who can kick, punt and throw. Vang credits his roles as a tackle, running back and wide receiver for Concordia University in St. Paul as well as his quarterback stint for a flag football team for prepping him.
The competition will be tough and the odds may be stacked against him but on his side are his two young children.
“It hit me that I need to be able to plant the seed in them, so as they grow that seed is there and they have the confidence to achieve whatever they want to achieve,” Vang said.
That’s the same seed his parents planted in him when they immigrated from Laos to St. Paul in search of opportunity. That opportunity is now knocking and Vang is opening the door.
“I’m not the biggest guy. I’m not the fastest guy. I’m not the strongest guy, but I think that with my hard work and determination I can go places with that, so I feel confident about that,” Vang said.
Vang is one of the first Hmong-American high school football coaches in St. Paul. He believes he will be one of the first Hmong-Americans to try out for the NFL. If he makes the cut, he hopes to play for his hometown team, the Minnesota Vikings; however, he is open to playing for any team.