Published: 15 May 2013 11:12 PM
Updated: 16 May 2013 11:25 AM
Dat Nguyen was often told he was too small to play football. Yet he was the first Vietnamese-American in the NFL. He was drafted by the Cowboys and said he couldn’t believe he was playing with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.
“There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big,” said the ESPN sportscaster. “But you have to put time and effort in order to gain an edge. It’s all about attitude.”
Nguyen was one of seven panelists who shared their journeys at Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation With Asian American Movers and Shakers. Saturday’s event was sponsored by Against The Grain Productions and held at the Crow Collection in Dallas. Tammy Nguyen Lee, founder of ATG, moderated the discussion.
Kent Takano, a vice president for HGTV and DIY Network, said he never expected to watch television for a living. In an acting class, he met someone in television who helped him land an internship. Takano’s been in television ever since.
Karin Oen, director of education at the Crow Collection, is passionate about building community through art institutions. UT Arlington graduate Ha Mai carved a path from design studio work to Fur Face Boy, his independent apparel line. Lily Jang said she loves what she does as a television journalist in Houston. Lawyer, advocate and politician Richard Jung joked that he wanted to be Nguyen, but admitted he found his calling in immigration law and helping others.
Tanya Pinto left a large advertising agency to start Baal Dan Charities, a nonprofit helping children around the world. She also runs her own firm, Shakti Consulting.
Nguyen Lee said each of the panelists “put fear aside to follow their passion.” This is her second Groundbreakers event, which she holds in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Visit againstthegrainproductions.com.