This marks the 30th anniversary of USA TODAY recognizing the nation's top high school athletes. As we prepare to unveil the 2012 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Football Team at the end of the season, we'll dig into the archives and check in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades.
Jason Ching hasn’t played football for Notre Dame for 13 seasons, but he’s already worried about the unbeaten and top-ranked Irish’s big game Saturday with Southern California.
“I always get nervous before the games,” said Ching, 34. “There have been so many tough years where they have broken my heart. I’m excited but I am really nervous.”
Ching was an American Family Insurance ALL-USA first-team defensive lineman from Punahou (Honolulu) in 1995, a precursor to current Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o, who was the ALL-USA Defensive Player of the Year from Punahou in 2008.
MORE: American Family Insurance ALL-USA Homepage
“I think there’s a lot more exposure for Hawaiian players than when I played,” Ching said. “When I went off to the mainland, I didn’t have the same coverage they do now. Manti’s head coach, at Punahou, was my defensive coordinator, Kale Ane. I would like to reach out to Manti, but I don’t know what the rules are since I’m an alumnus. He’s an unbelievable athlete.”
Ching’s college athletic career didn’t turn out as well as it did for Te’o. Because of numerous medical issues, Ching missed his freshman year and played mostly as a backup defensive end after that.
“I had back and abdominal surgeries my freshman year,” Ching said. “I tore my MCL my sophomore year. Then I had finger surgery and another knee surgery. It was kind of an injury-plagued college career, but you have to be very lucky to get through a sport like football and not get hurt. You have offensive linemen always going for your legs. At the end of the day, I got a free ride to a great university.”
Ching began majoring in pre-med, but soon switched to accounting.
“With football, I never had time to go to lab and I kind of like numbers, so I thought, ‘Let me try accounting,’ ” Ching said.
After getting his Masters in accounting at Notre Dame, he was hired by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the world’s largest professional services firm and one of the Big Four accounting firms. He worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers for eight years in Chicago before becoming an international tax director with the company in Houston.
His connections to the Irish haven’t dimmed. His first boss at PricewatershouseCoopers was a former Notre Dame player and two of his best friends in Houston are former Irish teammates, linebacker Jimmy Friday and defensive end Anthony Weaver, who were groomsmen at Ching’s wedding.
Ching and his wife Rolin have two daughters, Sydney, 4, and Charlotte, 3.
“I put them in sports classes and they actually watch the football games with me,” Ching said. “I don't think they understand too much but they know how to yell, ‘Go Irish.’ ”