Dat Nguyen is the son of Vietnamese refugees who fled during the Vietnam War, and therefore was born in a refugee center in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas before becoming a college football star in Texas. He grew up in Rockport, Texas and played middle linebacker and punter at Rockport Fulton High School. Nguyen was named All-State, and was recruited nationally before committing to Texas A&M University to stay close to home.
At Texas A&M, Nguyen led the Aggies in tackles for four years in a row. He was named Southwest Conference Newcomer of the Year, and All-Big 12 the following three years. He finally won the Chuck Bednarik Award his senior season as a consensus All-American. That season he recorded 147 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, four sacks, two recovered fumbles, and two interceptions. As a member of the Texas A&M Athletics Hall of Fame, Nguyen holds school records with 51 starts, 517 career tackles, and a career 10.7 tackles per game.
Nguyen was selected in the 3rd round, 85th overall, by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1999 NFL Draft, becoming the first ever professional Vietnamese football player. After a productive NFL career, a neck injury forced him to retirement in 2006. In 90 games played with the Cowboys, he amassed 516 tackles, six sacks, seven interceptions, and four forced fumbles. He made the 1999 All-Rookie Team for Special Teams and was an All-Pro in 2003. Nguyen also served as assistant linebackers coach for the Cowboys from 2007-09 and became Linebackers Coach for the Aggies from 2010-11.
Currently, Nguyen joined ESPN and hosts a radio show in San Antonio.