Record-setting Blaine receiver has athletic roots

Published on Tue, Nov 24, 2009 by Jack Kintner

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Howard Chau, an accomplished athlete from Canton, China, and a long-time gymnastics coach there, said that he once told his son, Trevor, that if he and his quarterback really knew each other well he wouldn’t have to look for the ball when running a pass route. “It will just be there,” Chau said, “right there,” as he gestured with his hands as if making a catch.

Though American-style football is one of the few sports the elder Chau didn’t participate in, young Trevor must have picked something up from his dad in becoming the best wide receiver Blaine has ever produced.
This year the first team all conference end and defensive back set all-time school  records in catching 136 passes for 1,924 yards and 19 touchdowns and a few two-point conversions as well.

And like his dad, he loves the Chinese national sport, ping pong. His coach, Jay Dodd, said that Chau is a self-effacing, hardworking leader whose numbers speak for themselves. “Statistically he’s the best at his position to ever play here,” Dodd said, “but he’s an even better person.”

Chau said that his football models are quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb and Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints quarterback whose offense is the best in the NFL, plus Houston’s pass catching marvel out of Florida, Andre Johnson, and Arizona’s wide receiver out of Pittsburgh Larry Fitzgerald.

But Chau, inches shorter and many pounds lighter than these at six feet and 175 pounds, is more reminiscent of a Lynn Swann, the 5’11” 180-pound superbowl MVP receiver and college all-American who was known for coming back from vicious hits from much bigger defenders. His coach in college, John McKay of USC, said that he was successful because of his “speed, soft hands and grace.” Swann excelled in two normally unrelated football chores, catching passes and returning punts.

Chau, similarly, seems to have inherited his dad’s gymnastic abilities. Against Mt. Baker this year Chau hauled in a pass over the wrong shoulder in a spinning move that Blaine principal Scott Ellis called the greatest high school catch he’s ever seen.

With the ball on the left hash mark Blaine called a 90 check, a play that gives the receivers some latitude. “I knew I could beat [the defensive back],” Chau said, but didn’t expect to get the ball. I was heading for the end zone and looking over my right shoulder for the ball but it came in over my left shoulder. So I just kind of turned around, caught the ball and just managed to get both feet in bounds.”

Against Blaine’s last opponent, W.F. West high school, the team that knocked them out of the state football tournament, Chau caught seven passes for 78 yards despite being repeatedly bashed in the ribs while leaping for passes placed perfectly by his quarterback Jordan McCarty, as smooth, consistent and reliable performer as Blaine has ever seen.

In Blaine’s first game this past season Chau caught a pass while battling with a defender in a reception that was more like something off a basketball court, the ball getting repeatedly bapped back up in the air by both players like a balloon at a party until in a remarkable display of sheer athleticism Chau dragged it in while landing on his back.
Chau said that his football memories are connected with certain moments that have to do with catching passes, like his first varsity touchdown for Blaine as a sophomore in the homecoming game against Mt. Vernon, or his catch in Longview against Mark Morris where he caught a short pass, jumped over the defender and ran another forty yards for a touchdown.

“I got this record because of the team I’m playing with,” said Chau, always a team player. He said that Jordan McCarty, his best friend, is in his mind “the perfect quarterback. McCarty’s consistent reliability made things easier for everyone this year as the two connected time after time in an almost effortless display of sympatico on and off the field.

“We think alike,” Chau said, echoing his dad’s thoughts about how well close friends can connect athletically even when there’s eleven other guys trying to prevent your success and only nine of your buddies to protect you.
A number of this year’s seniors have colleges taking serious looks at them, but none have made any definite plans. Chau says that he hopes to play, probably division two, but that right now his options are wide open.

Just like he’s been himself out on the field so many times this year.