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Triumphant Titan: Chin makes it back to the field

Junior making an impact after two injuries slowed his career

VANCOUVER — He was going to be so good on the freshman squad.

He was going to be so good as a sophomore, too.

Such a good athlete, a two-way player. A true high school football talent.

Only Justin Chin never had a freshman season.

Union junior Justin Chin (9) appreciates every moment he has on the field because injuries took him away from the game the past two years. He is now starting for the undefeated Titans. Photo courtesy of Heather Tianen
Union junior Justin Chin (9) appreciates every moment he has on the field because injuries took him away from the game the past two years. He is now starting for the undefeated Titans. Photo courtesy of Heather Tianen

Then his sophomore season lasted just a little more than a half of a game.

Chin missed out on his first two years of high school football. And it took him some time to really arrive as a junior.

Now, he is a starting linebacker for the undefeated Union Titans. And he is appreciative of every minute on the field.

“It’s my dream sport. I love it. Being out for two years was devastation,” Chin said.

Even this season was not exactly the dream scenario. He was not cleared to return to action until Week 4.

“I was thinking I was never going to play,” he said.

He got a few reps that week. A few more the next. And then the next.

He got his first start in Week 10 — the start of the playoffs.

He expects to start again in Week 14 — the end of the playoffs.

Union linebacker Justin Chin, shown here earlier in the game against Botell, said his favorite tackle of the season came later in this game, when he took down the quarterback on Bothell’s final drive of the game. Photo by Mike Schultz
Union linebacker Justin Chin, shown here earlier in the game against Botell, said his favorite tackle of the season came later in this game, when he took down the quarterback on Bothell’s final drive of the game. Photo by Mike Schultz

Union will face Lake Stevens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Tacoma Dome for the Class 4A WIAA state championship.

“It just makes me proud. I was training really hard,” Chin said. “No matter the injuries I had in the past, I worked hard and earned my position.”

The first injury had nothing to do with football. He broke a foot while trying to land a front-flip on a trampoline the day before practice started going into his freshman season.

Last year, in the first junior varsity game of the season, he tore up his knee.

“Just heartbreaking. Coach Ro told me that he had big plans for me that year,” Chin said, referring to Union coach Rory Rosenbach.

It was on the same field, on the same play, in the same quarter that Jojo Siofele did the same thing to his knee the previous year. Same day, in fact.

Siofele was a sophomore then, too. He came back as a junior and now as a senior, he is crushing it with the Union offense.

Chin wanted to make it back strong his junior season, too. It took some time, but he has arrived.

“I was a little scared my first game coming back,” he said. “But it felt great. I was just happy to be playing again.”

He made a tackle and heard his name over the public address system.

“I was in shock,” he said.

Justin Chin missed all of his freshman season and most of his junior season due to injuries. Then it took him some time to build up confidence this season. Now he is a starting linebacker for Union. Photo by Mike Schultz
Justin Chin missed all of his freshman season and most of his junior season due to injuries. Then it took him some time to build up confidence this season. Now he is a starting linebacker for Union. Photo by Mike Schultz

He got more and more plays through the weeks, building up confidence.

“I always knew this is what I was good at,” he said. “My team believed in me, too.”

He got himself strong enough to play a full game and was named a starter.

Chin also got the final tackle in the quarterfinals, lifting the quarterback and planting him on his back. That’s his favorite hit of the season so far.

“Being injured and all that hard work and training has paid off,” he said. “I’m just glad I am where I am right now.”

He is with all the Titans now, hoping to win one more game to complete the undefeated season, to win the school’s first football championship.

A week ago, the defense was put to the test against Puyallup in the semifinals. The Vikings scored on their first possession of the second half to take a 28-14 lead.

“Our coaches told us that Puyallup is a good team. They’re going to get us on a couple of plays, but we had to play our defense,” Chin said. “If all 11 play their positions, we can be the better team. Just play hard and physical.”

Puyallup did not score again, and the Union offense completed the comeback.

That game mirrored Chin’s comeback.

Chin, like the Titans, had to stay motivated. Chin, like the Titans, suffered some setbacks.

“Keep pushing and pushing,” Chin said. “You just have to keep working hard, and you’ll get there.”

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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