While Younghoe Koo sat in his bed watching college football Saturday morning, his phone rang. As a player on the roster bubble, his heart sunk.
He leaned over and saw it was just a friend, took a deep breath and went back to trying to distract himself from the gravity ahead.
By the time rosters needed to be finalized, though, Koo found out he’d won the Chargers’ kicking job as an undrafted free agent, beating out Josh Lambo in a tight competition.
And shortly after everyone found out he’d won the gig, phones started to ring again.
Koo, a trick-shot master Korean immigrant who moved to the United States before sixth grade with as much knowledge about football as English, soon captivated football fans across the world.
The combination of an incredible trick shot he performed with some college buddies (one where he makes a field goal and back-flips in the same motion), a catchy name and a unique heritage to pro football made him a bit of an overnight sensation.
He was the subject of stories and segments on television. His father, who still lives in Korea, was getting calls from reporters. His mother was too.
It was all a bit overwhelming.
So, after practice Tuesday, Koo walked up to a Chargers’ media relations staffer with a simple question: What do I do?
“I kind of thought it about it (beforehand), but I don’t know if I expected it. I definitely gave it a thought,” Koo said. “The last time there was big attention in Korea it was for Hines Ward (whose mother was Korean). My parents and my friends have kind of mentioned it to me, and I didn’t really know how to go about it. That’s why I asked.”
While he’s enjoying being big news, Koo knows none of it matters if he can’t keep the football between the uprights.
“That’s all fun and all, but at the end of the day I’ve got to get my mind right to do what I need. I can’t let that stuff distract me,” he said. “I look at it and it’s all good. But I’m here for one thing, and that’s to make kicks.”
Woike writes for the Los Angeles Times.