They finished high school ranked academically in the top 1% of their class. They were offered admission to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Currently pre-med at USC, they have made the Dean's List every single semester, and sport some of the football team's top GPAs, with one sitting on a Pac-10 football player high 3.9, and the other pulling in a 3.8. And while they arguably could have made it to USC on academic scholarships, don't think for a second that they will be trading in their football scholarships any time soon.
Welcome to the world of Brandon and Ryan Ting, USC Football's most famous set of half-Chinese, half-Japanese identical twins, who all at once manage to be admired and respected, and questioned and doubted, in part, for everything they represent and the stereotypes they shatter through their sheer presence on the Trojan roster.
In a sport that features few Asians (aside from Samoans), the Tings stick out like sore thumbs. On the one hand, they serve as role models for many young Asians who hope to one day play football at the highest levels. Asian families come up to them just to thank them for everything they symbolize. "We are a little amazed at how people view us as role models, because we are regular people," says Brandon (photo, right), the younger twin by one minute.
So revered are they by the Asian community, they were paraded down the streets of Los Angeles' Chinatown in February, honored at the 106th Annual Golden Dragon Parade, celebrating the Chinese New Year.
Notorious for having manners and respectful demeanors that would make Emily Post proud, the common theme when talking to anyone who knows them is that these guys were raised right.
Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Carlisle calls the Tings "two of the finest young men that I have been around in my 20 years of coaching... They are conscientious, hard-working and respectful... They are favorites among their teammates because of their ‘finish' attitude as well as their sense of humor and willingness to help all those around them."
Special Teams/Defensive Assistant Coach Sam Anno comments, "They are wonderful people. They bring so much energy to our team, to our defense, to our special teams... The way they prepare, the way they go about their business, they help with the aura of the team because of the professional way they do things."
To understand just who Brandon and Ryan are, one needs to look no further than their mother, Marilyn Ting. A USC alumnus with a background in child development, and whose first date with husband Dr. Arthur Ting was at the 1974 USC-Ohio State Rose Bowl game (she was still a student and he was a resident at County USC), Marilyn will tell you that respect was a big factor when she raised her sons. While both academics and athletics were stressed in the Ting household, Marilyn is most proud of the fact that "first and foremost, my sons are very thoughtful human beings, and very respectful... How they are as individuals is what I am most proud of."
Easy to say when all of your children are successes both in the classroom and on the football field, and are total class acts as well. Brandon and Ryan's older brother, Rich, played quarterback for Yale and is currently pursuing both a J.D. and M.B.A. at the University of Hawaii.
While manners, respect and academic success are great to have, the question begs, what does any of that matter on the football field? The comments continue, the Tings were only brought in to improve the team's average GPA.
"It's hard sometimes, to read some of the commentary," Marilyn reflects. "Not just about my family, but about the rest of the players. These athletes, while they are adult age, for the most part, are still kids... But it is to be expected because they are in the limelight."
Some question whether USC should have used up two athletic scholarships on them. Ryan will be the first to tell you: "We came to USC to play football." Brandon adds, "We cherish the fact that we earned the scholarships."
Not that they should even have to justify their spots on the USC roster since they were recruited and brought in by USC Head Coach Pete Carroll himself.
Anyone who wants to second-guess the recruiting decisions of someone whose same decision-making brought USC back from the grave of has-been programs to legitimate contention for an unprecedented third consecutive National Championship, will also want to check in with Nebraska, Kansas State, and Illinois, who all also offered the James Logan High athletes football scholarships. After that, there's also the whole Pac 10 Conference, including Jeff Tedford of Cal and Mike Bellotti of Oregon, who all offered them football scholarships as well. They had their choice of the best football programs to attend.
Carroll calls the Tings, who run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, "fast and aggressive players who bring the kind of intensity that we like to see."
The Tings' roles have also steadily increased with each passing year. In the Trojans' opener at Hawaii, Ryan (photo, right) was a starter in the nickel and dime packages. Meantime, Brandon, who was recently seen at the Coliseum scrimmage doing a great job defending Patrick Turner, had 2 1/2 tackles on the punt and kickoff coverage teams. Carroll observes, "Ryan made some real nice contributions in our dime packages against Hawaii and Brandon got in there and did his thing on special teams."
Not that any of what Carroll says will stop the stereotypes from coming. To set the record straight: They both have first-degree black belts in karate. They both help some of the other football players out with computer trouble-shooting. They aren't good at origami, although their mother is an "expert." Despite their Japanese ancestry, they shy away from raw fish. Lastly, the Tings are anything but wallflowers, who can often be seen dancing on the sidelines, and who do remarkably accurate impressions of Usher Raymond.
Expect the Tings this season to continue to be key members on special teams, and come in at safety and in nickel and dime packages. Look for Ryan to see the field some more again this Saturday at safety, as he will be backing up Scott Ware.
Carroll is pleased with their development: "They've really made great strides in their understanding of what we are trying to do and they have committed themselves mentally and physically to helping out this program." Adds Secondary Coach Greg Burns, "The Tings are experienced and provide us with good depth at the safety spot... We expect good things from them this year."