Style and Culture Writer, Blatant Homerism
The brothers had garnered more attention than might be expected for players who served mostly as backups and on special teams last season. They were flamboyant in appearance – small but sharply muscular, with black hair spiked and bleached at the tips – and were given to strutting onto the field before games.
From 2003 to 2006, Southern California was the site of a movement that may forever change the course of college football. One that had nothing to do with Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.
Much like their groundbreaking forefathers Ernie “The Express” Davis and Remember the Titans, history may view twins Ryan and Brandon Ting one day as reluctant crusaders who struck a monumental blow for the inclusion of Asian-American culture in the college football landscape.
“The harsh reality is that there is an absence of Asians in sports. But it doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are. If football is your passion, and you give 100 percent to it, there is nothing that can stop you,” Brandon told Scout.com in a 2006 interview.
As the Ting brothers—both of whom garnered academic All-American honors during their time in Troy—rose to stardom in the USC secondary, they infused Pete Carroll’s defense with a yin-yang combination of brawn and brains. Known for their ferocity—both hold black belts in karate—Ryan and Brandon delivered Bolo Yeung-like blows to receivers who dared to come across the middle.
Off the field, the Tings fostered a dynamic cultural exchange. Numbers 38 and 39 reveled in a sense of SoCal cool. Their love of lettermen jackets and slick hair harkened back to a foregone era when USC established itself as a gridiron powerhouse. The Tings went both ways, however, helping to build a love for Trojan football and yesteryear’s All-American styles among California’s close-knit Asian-American community.
Unfortunately, most revolutionaries prove to be too far ahead of their time, and the Tings were no exception. Brandon and Ryan left the USC team a week before fall practice started in August 2006, announcing their intentions to following in the footsteps of their father, BALCO-connected surgeon Arthur Ting, and concentrate on preparing for medical school. A week later, the Los Angeles Times reported that Brandon had tested positive for steroids, a major no-no for the science-forsaking NCAA.
In the end, it seems that the Tings’ love for cutting-edge medicine may have closed the book on their groundbreaking gridiron careers, while also opening the next chapter of their story. A bright future in medicine lies ahead for the brothers, leaving them ample time to brew their own performance-enhancing herbal potions. Maybe 50 years from now, we’ll remember Ryan and Brandon Ting not as social radicals, but as trailblazers who boosted our ability to power lift.