“When you first arrive, you don’t understand the culture. I still make a lot of mistakes. When you are speaking the language, there are idioms that you would understand that I don’t.”
Looking for ways to meet new people in a country where he knew no one, Du found a very unlikely bonding opportunity in football.
“I played basketball and tennis growing up,” he said. “But in China there really aren’t any opportunities to play team sports. And no one is really interested in football. But a few guys I made friends with said I should play football because of my size (5-foot-10, 230 pounds). Right away, I had so much encouragement from my teammates. They took me in and were so accommodating.
“I didn’t know anything about football. When people told me I was going to be a lineman, I had to ask, ‘What’s a lineman?’ I didn’t know anything about the rules. I also saw how dangerous the sport was. I wasn’t afraid, but it was a lot of contact. But everyone was so nice and so happy to have me here.”
While the learning process has been rocky at times, the Raiders players and coaches have taken quite a shine to their new teammate.
“He is still learning the game, but Will has come a long way since he started,” said Adamopoulos. “The sport is totally foreign to him. He needed help putting his pads on. The first game he played, we sent him in at nose guard and I think he was in a three-point stance next to the free safety. So we had to work on geography of where to line up a little.
“It’s tough because we have a lot of senior linemen, they have worked hard in the weight room, so it can be hard on him. Sometimes he looks like Rudy from the movie (‘Rudy’) getting knocked down hard. But he always gets up saying, ‘I can do it, Coach!’ He always jumps back in. He works so hard. Next season he might be a player for us.”