Cheng Ho's path to Harvard University is well chronicled.
What people might not know is that Ho recently graduated from Harvard with a bachelor's degree in economics. He'll soon be working with the National Football League trying to grow the game of football outside the United States, particularly in China.
"Football has been such a special part of my life. I really wouldn't be able to come to a school like this without it," Ho said. "I want to be a part of this movement to bring football to China."
It's a far cry from Ho's seventh-grade year.
Cheng and his sister, Tien, moved from their native Taiwan to live with their aunt and uncle, See and Beatrice Woo, after the death of their father, Chien Pen Ho. Their mother, Hui-Chih Hsie, was unable to raise them by herself.
Cheng Ho was in the seventh grade then, unable to speak English.
Fast-forward to his senior year at Evans High School. Ho had learned the English language through tireless practice. He also had learned a sport he had only seen once on television.
As it turns out, that sport -- football -- would change his life.
After starring at running back for the Knights, Ho chose to play football at Harvard. He then spent a year at Avon Old Farms Prep School in Connecticut to prepare for the academic rigors of the Ivy League school.
That journey from Taiwan to Harvard is an inspiring tale, but it was just the beginning. The story about his time in Cambridge, Mass., is a pretty good one, too.
"It was definitely challenging my first year, especially because I was still trying to get used to the workload and time management of football," Ho said.
The thing that struck Ho right away was the diversity he saw there.
"The place was amazing because the people all have different backgrounds, interests, and they're all very good at what they do," he said.
Ho's interest was football. He spent his freshman year learning the ropes, then started in the backfield as a sophomore. Though injuries sidelined him as an upperclassman, including much of his senior year, he said he appreciates every down he was able to play.
His teammates appreciated his work ethic and contributions as well. After his final game -- one which he couldn't play because of injury -- they lifted him up on their shoulders and sent him out in style.
"Those things mean a lot more to me than being MVP or first-string or third-string," Ho said. "In college, you've got to find ways to contribute."
Playing football allowed Ho to fit in socially in high school, and it served the same purpose for him at Harvard. But he said the two environments were polar opposites in one respect.
"At a school like Evans, the school spirit is off the hook," Ho said. "Going from a school that has so much school spirit to a place like Harvard was heart-breaking."
It was a place where the focus was almost purely academic, and understandably so for a school consistently ranked among the nation's best. But Ho believed there was a need for a boost in school spirit.
"It was so disappointing that the athletes don't get as much support," he said. "The basketball team was having such a strong season, and I really wanted to see them do well. I was roommates with three of them."
So he did something about it. Ho worked with the athletic department to institute a student organization on campus. He brought together the athletic department, coaches, the booster club and other athletes in hopes of rallying student support.
He succeeded, and the organization has already become an influential part of campus.
"He was just a very well-known and beloved figure on campus," Harvard football coach Tim Murphy said.
On the football field, Murphy said Ho typifies the athlete who gets the most out of what he has athletically. Murphy said that desire to succeed translates to anything he does off the field.
Ho said if he had to do it all over again, he might have chosen a different major.
"I would have picked something more fun," he said.
To offset it, he chose psychology as his minor, and that's a field that greatly interests him.
Ho is preparing to move to New York for his first real job, attempting to grow the game of football.
"In China, parents tend to discourage kids from playing sports," Ho said. "They don't realize there are other ways that you can get where you need to be than academics.
"Maybe one day, there will be some form of (football) league there," he said.
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