LINCOLN — To understand how Seung Hoon Choi can lift the weight he lifts and how he built the body he has, you have to go back before James Dobson ever got the offensive lineman in the Nebraska weight room.
As a youth in South Korea, Choi would follow his father to the gym and observe, and sometimes even lift with him. Sang Ho Choi competed in judo in college and played other sports.
“He loved lifting,” Seung Hoon Choi said. “He was pretty lean, but pretty big. He was just very strong.”
Once in the United States and attending Lincoln Christian, Choi never grew tired of working out. Even after lifting at the high school during the day, he would still find some friends and go to the YMCA for another round.
“I don't know, I thought it was just kind of fun to do,” he said, “and when I had the free time I'd do it.”
Choi can thank his roots for the body and résumé that have made him the Huskers' starter at left guard. The 6-foot-2, 290-pounder not only was ready for the demands of Dobson and his strength and conditioning staff at NU, but he welcomed them.
“He's a freak,” said Husker defensive tackle Chase Rome. “He's a ridiculously, ridiculously strong guy. I don't think they've put anything on the bar he hasn't gotten. And he works his butt off.”
Choi knows that without that strength he would probably be just another guy on the team. He came to NU as a walk-on who never played football until his sophomore year of high school.
But being strong is one thing. Putting it to use on the football field is something else.
“Obviously some people, they're maybe just strong and powerful, but if you can't translate that power to football (then) it doesn't do anything for you,” Choi said. “So you just got to learn how to use that, and I'm still learning a lot.”
NU center Cole Pensick says Choi knows how to use it.
“There are times on film that he'll just give a guy a little punch and they just go flying,” Pensick said. “And you're like, ‘Wow.'”
Choi and Pensick are considered two of the stronger Huskers in the program. It's not unusual during heavier lifting sessions for teammates to stop and watch as they move past 400 pounds on the bench press.
“When we have our max effort, we get a pretty good crowd,” Pensick said.
The size of Choi's arms and chest helps make up for what he lacks in length compared to some others on the Husker line, although NU assistant coach John Garrison adds that Choi is “light on his feet” for his weight, owning the school record for the 10-yard dash by an offensive guard at 1.62 seconds.
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“He's so wide and strong that he's really hard to get around in pass protection,” Garrison said. “He's able to handle some of the bigger pass rushers in the Big Ten because of his strength and just how darn wide he is.
“Some guys just love the weight room, some guys are not big weight room guys. You just hope as an offensive line coach you have those guys that enjoy it.”
Rome compared Choi's approach in the weight room to that of I-back Rex Burkhead: No showing off, no goofing around, no loitering ... just business.
“He's kind of like Rex in the fact that he brings it every day,” Rome said. “I've never seen Seung have an off day. He's excited and he's enthusiastic about getting better.”
Pensick said he first saw Choi at a track meet back in high school, “and he was huge back then.” What Choi hadn't developed was some of the know-how and technique that have come from working with Dobson, along with adding the necessary agility and flexibility to play his position at a high level.
But the want-to was always there, and it's probably the biggest reason for Choi going from a little-known backup who appeared in just one game his first three years at NU (one as a redshirt) to somebody who started six games last season as a junior.
“I just kind of had that in mind that I'm here to play football,” Choi said. “My purpose wasn't just to walk on and be part of the team, but to be something special and contribute to this program.”
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