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Are There any Asian NFL Players (and How Many)?

Professional sports, with few exceptions, at least in terms of the players who take the field, are a meritocracy.

You will find a home if you can play football at a high enough level to help an NFL team.

With that said, I set out to determine how many current NFL players, as of January 2023, are at least partially of Asian descent.

For this endeavor, I define “Asian” as Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, and Korean individuals.

You may find the results surprising.

Key Takeaways:

  • As of January 2023, there are six players of Asian descent on NFL rosters.
  • Two of the most productive Asian NFL players are QB Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals and K Younghoe Koo of the Atlanta Falcons.
  • All of the players in this piece appreciate their heritage and seek to serve as football role models for today’s young Asian Americans, role models they were not privy to while growing up.

How Many Asian Players are in the NFL?

As of January 2023, there are six players of Asian descent on NFL rosters: 

Kalif Raymond

Raymond, whose mother is Chinese and whose father is Black, is a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions. [1]

In 2016, Raymond signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent out of Holy Cross, although he did not record a reception in four games with the 2016 Broncos.

He played with the Jets, Giants, and Titans from 2017 through 2020, accumulating just 19 receptions combined.

However, Raymond finally found a home with the Detroit Lions in 2021. 

In 2021 and 2022 combined, Raymond secured 95 receptions for 992 yards, including four touchdowns. [2]

Kyler Murray

Murray, whose father is Black and whose mother is half-Korean, is the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. [3]

Arizona selected Murray from the University of Oklahoma with the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

In 2018, Murray won the Heisman Award for the most outstanding college football player.

Murray amassed 4,946 yards of total offense and accounted for 51 touchdowns in his historic campaign. [4]

Murray is a two-time Pro-Bowler and the 2019 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. [5]

On Dec. 12, 2022, during a Monday Night Football contest against the New England Patriots, Murray tore the Anterior Cruciate Ligament in his knee and missed the remainder of the season.

Nonetheless, Murray is expected to make a complete recovery, perhaps by the start of the 2023 season.


Younghoe Koo

Koo, both of whose parents are South Korean, was born in South Korea and is the starting placekicker for the Atlanta Falcons.

Koo is the second-highest-paid kicker in the league after signing a five-year contract extension with the Atlanta Falcons earlier this year.

Koo emigrated from South Korea to Ridgewood, New Jersey, at age twelve, utterly unfamiliar with the English language.

Upon arrival in the United States, Koo excelled at soccer for his school team. In fact, he credits his involvement with sports as facilitating his learning of English, as it required him to socialize with “different friend groups and meet different people with regularity.”

Because of his soccer exploits, he joined the football team as a kicker, and success came quickly.

Koo enjoyed a brilliant collegiate career with Georgia Southern. He converted a team record 88.6% of his field goal attempts and was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award for the nation’s best kicker.

While at Georgia Southern, Koo shot this video that piqued the interest of NFL scouts:

Nonetheless, Koo went undrafted in 2017 and struggled to find a home in the NFL until signing with the Falcons in 2019, where he has since enjoyed a remarkable career. [6]

Luke Wattenberg

After a prodigious career at the University of Washington, Wattenberg completed his rookie season as the offensive center for the Denver Broncos in 2022.

The 5th-round draft pick’s mother is Korean, and his father is Caucasian.

At 6-5 and 300 pounds, Wattenberg destroys defenders along with any existing ethnic stereotypes.

Wattenberg fits the athletic mold that the Denver Broncos look for in their offensive linemen. His Relative Athleticism Score is 9.57 out of 10, ranking him 24th out of 534 offensive centers in the NFL since 1987. [7]

Kyle Hamilton

The Baltimore Ravens selected Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, whose mother is South Korean and whose father is Black, with the 14th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. [8]

NFL aficionados refer to Hamilton as “the steal of the draft.”

As the best player on a Notre Dame team that reached the College Football Playoff, Hamilton should have been a top-10 pick; however, he slipped to number fourteen due to a run on wide receivers. [9]

During Hamilton’s 2022 rookie campaign, he accounted for 55 tackles, two sacks, and five passes defended. [10]

Taylor Rapp

The Los Angeles Rams selected University of Washington safety Taylor Rapp, whose mother is Chinese and whose father is Caucasian, with the 61st pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Rapp earned himself Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year and All-American honors. He led his team with five sacks during his final season at Washington.

Rapp proudly declares that he wants to be a role model for young Asians with pro football aspirations, a role model Rapp never found while growing up. 

“It was kind of hard for me with sports because there’s a lack of Asian representation in all pro sports, especially football,” Rapp said.

“I’m just trying to fill that role that I didn’t have as a kid,” he said. “Just being that figure and role model for those kids who might’ve been in my position. Someone they can relate to, someone to inspire them.” [11]

Lastly, Rapp is a Super Bowl champion, winning Super Bowl LVI with the Los Angeles Rams.


Final Thoughts

It did not go unnoticed that all six players mentioned in this article are proud of their heritage and endeavor to change the narrative that Asians are not athletes.

Here’s to today’s Asian American NFL players obliterating the unfortunate racial stereotypes associated with Asians and athletics while inspiring an entirely new generation of Asian American football players.


  1. Under the Helmet: Kalif Raymond
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