As a freshman, the safety earned the Pac-12 defensive freshman of the year award and was named the MVP of the Pac-12 title game.
All his life, Taylor Rapp has heard how rare and unique he is.
“He was about 8 or 9 the first time he started playing flag football and he was just smoking everybody on the field,” Rapp’s father Chris said. “They’d give him the ball and say go and he’d just run around people.
“They couldn’t give him the ball all the time because it would be a boring game. That’s when we knew he had some ability.”
Washington @ Colorado, 7 p.m., FS1
Bellingham doesn’t produce many Division I athletes and yet the former three-star recruit from Sehome High has quickly matured into a strong safety star for the Washington Huskies.
But early on, Rapp had his doubts about a future in football.
“Growing up I didn’t see a lot of Asian football players,” said Rapp, whose father shares a German and British ancestry and whose mother Chiyan was born in China. “It was kind of like, hmmm am I going to be able to play at the next level? I was like, geez I don’t really see any Asian players in the NFL or college.”
Rapp said his biggest influence was his brother Austin, who is three years older.
“I didn’t really have role models in the traditional sense to where you would say I identify with a particular guy or anything like that,” Rapp said. “Maybe Patrick Chung (the New England Patriots player who shares Chinese and Jamaican ancestry). He’s a little bit Chinese and he’s actually a safety.”
Only 19, Rapp doesn’t shy from the idea that he might be a role model to a younger generation looking for Asian-American heroes in a sport devoid of them.
“Definitely,” he said. “That comes up quite a bit. Little Chinese or Asian kids come up to me quite a bit or message me on Instagram or Twitter. Or their parents will message me saying hey I have a little son and he’s Chinese and you’re his role model.
“I don’t know how big of an impact I’m really having, but it’s definitely cool to see that and to hear that.”
Rapp, who attended a Chinese immersion elementary school for years as a youth, embraces his Asian culture. His favorite food is his mother’s homemade Chinese dumplings and he’s somewhat fluent in Mandarin.
“He’s very close to his grandmother and grandfather,” said Chris, who met and married Chiyan in Shanghai, China, before the…