Meet State-Title-Winning Quarterback... Seung Yu?
A look at the high school football career of North Carolina state-title-winning quarterback, Principal Seung Yu.
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“Football is a sport for the gigantic and muscle-bound.
A sport where you will find 325-pound defensive [linemen], 260-pound running backs, and even 220-pound quarterbacks. Then there's Seung Yu.
At just [5’6”], 145 pounds, the senior quarterback is ring leader for the High Point Andrews football team.”
And so begins a 1991 article from Greensboro News & Record, the local newspaper in Guilford County, North Carolina. That quarterback? No, it’s not another 5’6’’-er named Seung Yu. He is the man we all know today as Principal Yu. Yu led his high school to the North Carolina state title (3-A division), earning offensive MVP honors in the title match along the way.
In his senior year, Yu was the starting quarterback for T. Wingate Andrews High School, which boasts 11 NFL alumni, including five-time Pro Bowl selection Adrian Wilson and College Football Hall of Fame running back Ted Brown. “My high school was really known for athletics,” Yu said. “The culture was that if you were going to join a team, you were joining high expectations, high standards.”
The journey to the 1991 North Carolina State Championship was by no means easy. In the three years before Yu took the reins, the team was stacked with future NFL and college talent but fell just short of the coveted state title time and time again. All that would change when Yu won the starting quarterback position in his senior year. “When I was a senior, our team was not expected to win [the state championship]. They thought there was going to be a pretty big drop-off,” Yu said. “There was adversity we had to overcome.”
At the beginning of the season, the team did have trouble putting together the pieces. “We lost our first three games, so that didn’t bode very well,” Yu said. “There were calls for me not to be the starter.” However, despite the initial challenges, teamwork and hard work at practices carried Yu and his team forward through what would be a special season. “Unless you have the right chemistry as a team, it’s really hard to win a championship,” Yu said. The teamwork did end up paying off as Yu and his Red Raiders flipped the switch and went on a winning streak into the playoffs. From there, there was no looking back. “This is why I’m a big believer in momentum,” Yu said. “We just got to a point where we just didn’t expect to lose.”
In the state title game, played in the University of North Carolina’s football stadium, Yu put on a strong performance, winning offensive player of the game. “It was a great culmination to [...] end my football career, so to speak, to play at a big-time college stadium,” he said.
As a Korean-American leading his North Carolina school’s powerhouse football team, Yu experienced his fair share of obstacles. Yu said one important aspect fueling him was “dispelling the notion about being an Asian-American football player.” At the time, Guilford County primarily lacked significant Korean representation. “I think I was one of two Asian students at my school,” Yu said. “I remember even on the football field, sometimes players and fans from the other schools would say something about [...] being Asian. They’d use some derogatory terms. [...] It was part of the dynamic of that time. I don’t think I thought enough of it. [...] What I tried to do [was] channel that into how I would play.”
Playing as a quarterback well under six feet, Yu adapted with his strengths in his playing style. “Lots of times I couldn’t see over the line, so I had to see through the lines and/or make sure I knew I was throwing to a location. And fortunately, I had some great coaches who recognized that as well,” he said. Though not a prototypical quarterback build, Yu was able to use his athletic skills in tandem with his quick thinking to reach success—so much success that he was able to secure a state championship for his high school.
Looking back, it wasn’t the touchdowns, wins, or even the state championship trophy that resonate with Yu most about his high school football experience today. “My parents, who worked all the time, came to every one of my games,” Yu said. “That’s what I remember the most.”