Tiger Yu is what makes football great

Last season's offensive line after winning the Old Oil Can. (Credit: X.com @tigeryu56)

The short URL of the present article is: https://www.eastvillagetimes.com/hzzu
Spread the love
Tiger Yu (center) at the SDSU coaches clinic. (Credit: SDSU Athletics)

Time comes for every athlete. It could arrive in high school or at the end of a Hall of Fame career. But, inevitably, a day dawns when every player retires.

Fate appeared for SDSU offensive lineman Tiger Yu the second week of Spring Camp.

“It was horrible,” Yu said on an upcoming episode of The SDSU Podcast. “There’s some low points in my life, and that week was definitely one of the tougher ones. Football was something I fell in love with once I moved here from China. … Letting go of something that you love is always hard.”

Yu moved to the US when he was eight, and from the first time he saw the NFL on television, he wanted to play. When he arrived at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, CA, he was committed to pursuing his dream on the gridiron. An injury in his junior year, however, derailed his plans.

During the 2020 COVID season, played in the Spring of 2021, Yu dislocated his kneecap and tore his MPFL and MCL ligaments. That injury was the root of what would eventually lead to Yu’s medical retirement last month.

“During spring ball, I was not able to perform out on the field,” Yu explained. “Where pain inhibition, where my quads would involuntarily shut down when I’m doing drills, whether that’s team (or) individual. My mind is not able to overcome that, which means I can’t do my job anymore out there. I do not want to get anybody else hurt. That’s my first thing; I don’t want to be out there not be able to do my job and get my quarterback hurt.”

SDSU’s offensive linemen in Spring Camp, including No. 56 Tiger Yu. (Credit: Don De Mars/EVT)

Simply because Yu’s playing days were behind him didn’t mean his love for the game ended. After taking Spring Break to get his mind right, Yu returned to the Aztecs and asked to help. Given his standing in the program, SDSU carved out a role for him as the Football Operations Intern.

Right away, Yu went to work. At SDSU’s annual coaches clinic, he helped with registration and made sure dinner happened without a hitch. He filled a similar role this past weekend at the Aztec Link Golf Tournament. In between, he has worked at practice.

Built around his school schedule, the internship does not have the time commitment required for the players and coaches, but his desire to stay close to the team is noteworthy. Yu said he is unsure at this point if he wants to pursue a career in coaching, but this opportunity allows him to get experience in the profession while making that decision.

I'd like this amount to  

“Everybody sees out on the field,” Yu explained. “The players are playing, what plays they’re running, schemes, but they never really go into behind the scenes and how important of a work that (Director of Football Operations) Ruben (Pena) and the team has in making everything functional, whether it’s coaches, players, getting them to where they need to be, getting them fed, (and) everything like that. It’s just like getting great experience and continuing to stack up my resume.”

The challenge of Yu’s pivot from player to support staff comes into focus when realizing the opportunity he has been working toward was at hand. With 2023 starters Myles Murao and Ross Ulugalu-Maseuli sidelined with injury, Yu had the chance to earn a spot in SDSU’s two deep this spring.

Tiger Yu in his new role with the Aztecs. (Credit: SDSU Athletics)

A strong showing could have catapulted him into a competition to start as Murao and Ulugalu-Maseuli physically and mentally work their way into shape to compete in the Aztec Fast offense. Instead of that high, Yu was met with a terrible low.

He originally came to SDSU as a preferred walk-on, choosing the warmth of San Diego over the cold of Northeastern University in Boston in 2022. Yu, who could not speak English when he arrived in the US, is on pace to earn a bachelor’s degree in business next spring. Wanting to graduate with the Aztecs, he began his SDSU journey with Yu plans to prolong his time on The Mesa by adding a minor in finance.

“My guys: just wanted to shout out to the guys I came in with, basically,” Yu said. “Dean Abdullah, he moved in on the same day as me. He’s been a brother since day one. I want to shout out Josh (Hunter), Mikey (Welsh), Max (Garrison), Lucky (Sutton) Sheldon (Canley), grinding through those first two years of classes together, practice, (and) conditioning. We just built that bond. I feel like it’s going to last us a lifetime which is mainly why I chose to persistently want to be around the team and stay around this university as well. It’s a beautiful place, and there’s nowhere else I want to be.”

Yu also praised head coach Sean Lewis and his new staff. Even in such a short time together, he commented, they have treated him like family. Their support helped him as he transitioned away from playing.

College football’s landscape is changing and judging by the early returns, not for the better. The stranglehold money, power, and winning have on the game is more suffocating than ever. Occasionally, the sport produces stories like Tiger Yu’s that serve as a reminder of what makes football great.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *