Name: Younghoe Koo
College: Georgia Southern
NFL games played: 0
Games played for the Chargers: 0
Fun fact: You probably already know this, but Koo comes from South Korea, but he's not the first player with Korean heritage to play for the Chargers - Safety Lloyd Lee was with the team in 1998.
When Younghoe Koo moved to America at the age of 12 to further his mother's career as a nurse, he couldn't speak the language. He also didn't know a single person at his new school. If you'd told Koo that the way he'd settle into America and make friends there would be through football, he'd have had no idea what you were talking about, and not just because he'd never played a down in his life. Koo had no idea what football even was.
When some classmates invited Koo out to join them in kicking a football around, Koo accepted. He was used to soccer and kickball. All that was different this time was the shape of the ball. No big deal - at least, not to Koo. After the first punt, it was obvious that he had a special talent. He took that talent to his High School team, and his coach noticed what everyone else had. "You knew, even by eighth grade, you knew he had a special talent.”
After dominant performances in High School, including 47 touchbacks on 50 kickoffs (as well as six interceptions as a CB in his Senior Year), earning him a scholarship at Georgia Southern. He stood out as one of the best kickers in the country at Georgia Southern, going 31-35 on FGs in his career there. However, it was his Senior Year where he really came to fruition. Koo made 19-20 FGs with his lone miss being from 54 yards, and earned a place on the shortlist for the Lou Groza award for the best Kicker in the country, as well as becoming Georgia Southern’s first ever FBS All-American with a place on the Third Team. For someone who came to the country just over 10 years ago, without speaking a word of English and not knowing what a football even was? That's a damn strong legacy to leave.
Kickers don't usually gain fame for much - especially college kickers - but if you knew the name Younghoe Koo before the Chargers signed him as an UDFA, then the likelihood is it's because of this video:
If you're wondering why nobody in the video seems particularly enthused, that might have something to do with the fact that, for Koo, that probably wasn't too hard. Koo is a superb athlete who sports just seem to come naturally too. As well as growing up playing soccer, baseball and basketball - and being good enough at soccer to potentially have had a career in that too - Koo competed seriously in track and field at High School. This website lists some numbers for Koo in the Long Jump, Triple Jump and High Jump, but he also threw the Javelin and ran track.
After reading back the details of Koo's early life, I'm in awe. Genuinely. You think making friends at a new school is bad? Try doing it in a place where you don't know the customs, don't speak a word of the language and have no idea what's being said around you.
Well, that's what Koo did. Sure, it was hard at first, but not for long. Soon enough, he had managed to not just fit in socially, but somehow manage to fit every sport under the sun into a surely hectic schedule, as well as complete all his academic work. Oh, and it didn't take him long to master that small matter of learning the English language, either.
On that first day at school, the 12 year old Koo was probably nervous, with unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar place, resigned to watching the world go by. Ten years later, the boy who didn't speak a word of English was graduating from university with a degree in Logistics. The boy who'd never seen a football before was using the sport to set a legacy at a college that, in his words, "felt like home." The boy who'd never heard of football before was suddenly going to compete for a job in the NFL - a job that is only open to 32 people in the world at any one time.
For Koo, sports had been the way into a world he knew nothing about, his way of making friends that could actually call him by his name. Roger Goodell might not have called that name during the NFL Draft, but that's irrelevant now. Koe is here. His journey in life so far has taken him from Seoul, to New Jersey, to Georgia, and now to Los Angeles. New surroundings aren't a new idea to Younghoe Koo. It's a big challenge ahead of him, but he's not going to be phased. After all, he's faced bigger challenges in his lifetime. He’s here to win.
Josh Lambo better be ready for a fight.