Football wasn’t Alvin Kim’s first choice at Hoover High; it wasn’t even his second.
“I wanted to play golf when I came in as a freshman,” said Kim, a senior. “But that didn’t work out. And then I wanted to try out for the basketball team, but I missed the tryouts.”
Never having played organized football, Kim was convinced by his friend, Se Jun Kim, to try out for the Tornadoes football team. The only problem was the football season was more than half over and Alvin Kim had no idea what position he could play, or if he was any good at the sport.
“It was the seventh week of the season and I asked the coach if I could try out for the team,” Alvin Kim said. “He wouldn’t let me, but I begged him to please let me come out for the team. He finally gave in and said if I could run something like 14 laps around the track my freshman year that I could make the team. I was able to do that and I made the team.
“But I was one of the worst players on the team and there were some players who were making fun of me.”
Fast forward three years.
When Kim takes the field for Hoover this season as a two-way starter, no one will be able to laugh at the senior’s athletic ability. With a dedicated work ethic, a hunger for improvement and a desire to learn what it takes to be a successful football player, Kim had transformed himself into a consummate athlete for the Tornadoes.
It is that hard work that has paid dividends for the athlete. Along with playing outside linebacker and wide receiver for Hoover, Kim is also the team’s long snapper and mans a position on the kickoff team.
Kim said to shed the image of the player whom teammates mocked as a freshman, he had to put in the hours of training he needed to improve.
“I actually had to stop lifting during the summer because I was injuring my rotator cuff,” Kim said. “I remember some semesters when I didn’t have a first-period class, I would walk to school and by 7 in the morning I would just come to the field to work. Then in the second semester, I would come to school and work out from 4-6 all by myself.
“It was important for me to stay in shape and get as fast and as strong as I could. It was something that I knew I had to do to get better.”
Se Jun Kim — who will be Hoover’s starting quarterback this season — has been friends with Alvin Kim since the two were in the fifth grade. The quarterback said he is continually amazed at how dedicated his friend is at improving as an athlete, and how committed he is to the Hoover football program.
“He is just a really dedicated person and he is one of those guys who will work his hardest at everything,” Se Jun Kim said. “He is very determined to help us win and will do all he can to make that happen. He is also very intense when he’s on the field.”
As Hoover prepares for its season opener, a zero week game Friday at 7 p.m. at Moyse Field against Blair, Alvin Kim’s dedication to the team has been put to the test. Kim was hoping to get a shot at playing running back this season. However, he said first-year coach Matt Andersen thought he was better suited to play wide receiver, so Kim obliged.
“I would rather play running back, but the coaches think I would be better at receiver,” said Kim, who caught nine balls for 158 yards and two touchdowns in 2012. “I just have to do what’s best for the team and if they want me to play there I’ll play there. If I have to give up something for the team, I will.”
Andersen is trying to lead a Hoover resurgence and also trying to change the culture of a program that has struggled for decades. Last season, the Tornadoes went 3-7, winning their first two games. The squad was also 1-6 in the Pacific League, tying for seventh place. Hoover hasn’t qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs since 1987.
Andersen is hoping that players like Alvin Kim will help facilitate the turnaround.
“We’ve got some good leaders on the team this year and Alvin in one of them,” said Andersen, who was an assistant at Occidental College. “Alvin is a stud and his senior leadership has been huge. He is the type of player we need to rely on if we are going to be successful.”
Kim welcomes the challenge.
“We have a coach now who really cares about the players,” said Kim, who maintains a 4.0 grade-point average. “I just want to do my part and help us win. I think that’s what my focus is going to be.”