By: Erin Onderko
For the Yellow Jacket
While some athletes come from the surrounding counties or even nearby states such as Ohio and West Virginia, others come from much further away, such as Hawaii. In the case of one young man, the place he calls home is even further than that.
He comes to Waynesburg University all the way from South Korea.
Ohseung “Jarrett” Choi, senior soccer player for the Yellow Jackets has been in the United States since he was about thirteen years old, but grew up in a strong Christian family that attended the local Baptist church in South Korea. However, things back home weren’t always great.
“I hung out with friends outside of my family the most, but hanging out with friends doesn’t always mean good things,” Choi said. “I started doing a lot of bad stuff, like smoking and fighting a lot. My mom said, ‘you know what, I can’t deal with you anymore,’ and sent me to boarding school.”
Things didn’t get better at his new school, and Choi continued to get in trouble. After a little time in boarding school, his mom decided to send him to America.
Choi was not excited about the thought of coming to a new country, explaining that he asked his mother time and time again not to send him away. He was especially nervous about overcoming the language barrier, as he was only thirteen and did not know a word of English. Nonetheless, he came to America and was surprised to find how much he would love it.
“In the end, it wasn’t my decision,” Choi said. “It was my parent’s decision. So, I came here and found I kind of liked it. It feels like it’s a home, and I’ve been here since then.”
The language barrier wasn’t the only learning curve Choi had experienced. American culture and mannerisms were much different from those he knew in South Korea. He also adopted the name “Jarrett” after coming here, because he wanted to have an American name that was unique.
Once here, Choi began to have a great experience. He had loved playing soccer in South Korea and continued playing here. Deciding to play high school soccer was what would lead him to Waynesburg in the end.
“I found Waynesburg through my high school soccer coach, which is Waynesburg’s assistant coach, Zach Morgan,” Choi said. “He reached out to me and said, ‘hey do you want to play college soccer?’”
Morgan offered three different times for Choi to come to play at Waynesburg and was denied all three times. It was not until Coach Morgan’s wife, Kimber, offered to drive Choi to come visit Waynesburg that he decided to come play for the Yellow Jackets. Choi is thankful he decided to come and has loved forming relationships with his fellow teammates.
“It’s like a family. On the field, we are family, but we still compete with each other and try to make each other better players and better leaders,” Choi said. “We love each other, but we still try to make each other better, and we want to win.”
So far, Choi has had to fight hard on the soccer field and has also had to overcome a chronic knee injury, but has made lasting friendships with his teammates. The most notable of which is with fellow senior Steven Haines.
“Me and Ollie (Jarrett) became friends when we came in early for preseason freshman year and were waiting in the hallway of Athletic Training for our physicals,” Haines said. “Us and one other friend we met that day are still friends today.”
Haines had high praise for Choi, both on and off the field, commenting on his passion and love for all that he does and his incredible leadership skills.
“He’s like a little firecracker on the field,” Haines said. “He has these really short bursts of high energy and intensity. When he’s out there he goes as hard as he can and gives one hundred and ten percent all the time. You can tell he loves what he’s doing, and his energy is contagious.”
Off the field, both Haines and Choi are actively involved with campus ministry, with Choi leading Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddles as well as playing for the worship band during Upper Room.
Haines also mentioned how much he has been able to see Choi grow during his time at Waynesburg, and seeing him develop more confidence to be able to truly find his place at Waynesburg.
Choi is thankful for the opportunities he has had at Waynesburg, and for how much he has grown since coming here.
“Waynesburg was my last choice of schools. I was looking for big, brand-name schools like Penn State or Duke because it would be pretty cool to have that in my resume.” Choi said. “But, I learned so much from Waynesburg as a Christian, a student, an athlete and a leader. I’m thankful to Waynesburg University for giving me a lot of opportunities to grow. They are always supportive and very generous, so I just want to say thank you to everyone in this school who has helped me come here and helped me grow.”