6.30.23 – The Eagle

“With an Eye for Future Generations – Dat Nguyen’s Story To Be Told by 12th Man”

By Travis L. Brown

A football on the grass in front of a stadium.

Excerpts from this article:


When Texas A&M athletics’ in-house production wing 12th Man Productions spun off a department for long-form documentaries called 12th Man Films in 2019, the people in charge had two story ideas: the legend of E. King Gill and the life of former A&M linebacker Dat Nguyen.

Nguyen’s story is a very real example of realizing the American dream.

This is American. It drips America and everything that it’s about and it being a melting pot and having a culture of acceptance,” 12th Man Films writer and editor Chris Sabo said.

So on Independence Day, 12th Man Films will release its nearly hour-long feature “All American: The Dat Nguyen Story,” detailing the escape of Nguyen’s family from war-torn Vietnam to his rise to football’s highest ranks with the A&M football team and the Dallas Cowboys.

**Please go to this link and click on the video button. After the brief ads, the 12th Man film of Dat Ngunen’s story will begin:  https://12thman.com/feature/dat

Sabo said he hopes Nguyen’s story resonates with viewers — his tale of a family avoiding artillery shells on a boat leaving their home country to raise the first and only player of Vietnamese decent to be selected in the NFL draft.

Isn’t that what life is about, trying to help people that might not have originally thought that opportunity was available to them?” Sabo said.

It’s a legacy for the next generation of underdogs who can see they have a chance to achieve their dreams, he said.

You are going to have some adversity,” Nguyen told The Eagle. “When you don’t have something to reach for or to look forward too, it’s kind of empty. This allows a hope to be able to dream and follow your dreams.”

Without A&M, I wouldn’t be who I am today,” Nguyen said.

I was a young boy coming onto a campus a few hundred miles away, not knowing what to expect, not knowing what was going to happen. So for A&M to have a production and have a team to produce this and to film this and share this for generations, not just the Asian generation or my family’s generation but for Texas A&M athletics ... it’s such a rich, rich tradition ... I wouldn’t want anyone else to do this besides 12th Man Productions.”

Nguyen’s story begins before he was born in Vietnam, where his family decides to flee as the Viet Cong marched on their village.

It chronicles Nguyen’s rise to fame as a football player at Rockport-Fulton High School and his decision to play for the Aggies followed by his career with the Cowboys.

For Nguyen, the section of his story on how football brought together a town of native Texans and Vietnamese refugees is what he loves most. It began with hostility from area residents as the refugees tried to start a new life while learning a new language and culture. Sports bridged the gap between the two cultures, Nguyen said.

It really hits you when you’re 35 or 40 years old, when you realize a small town of 8,000 people shuts down on a Friday night to go out and watch a football game,” he said. “The whole town is out there, and the stadium is full of the community. You get to witness the stands with all the different nationalities combined, integrating, and they’re cheering for a home team. I think that’s the coolest part, because as we know, the tension we had in the 70s in our community and for it to transform into one community because of football or a game of basketball was pretty spectacular.”

…“[A&M] is all about selflessness and service and respect and integrity, and here’s a guy that is not only saying it but literally living it every single day, still to this day ... with the way he was brought up, with the way he lives,” Sabo said. “He just personifies [A&M].”