Nguyen was born in a refugee camp in Arkansas after his family narrowly escaped the North Vietnamese Army. Nguyen began his football career at Rockport-Fulton High School in Rockport, TX, where he had lived most of his childhood. In high school Dat played middle linebacker and handled punting duties where he earned All-State honors as a punter. Toward the end of Nguyen's high school career, he received scholarship offers from six different colleges, including Texas A&M University.
While at A&M, Nguyen battled the opinion that he was too small to play linebacker. However, after ending his career at A&M with a record 517 tackles, he is still the only Aggie to ever lead the school in tackles for four consecutive years. To this day, it is extensively believed that Nguyen was the undeniable on-field leader of the famous "Wrecking Crew" defense in the 1990s.
During his career at A&M, Nguyen also received many awards including Southwest Conference Defensive Newcomer of the Year, first-team All-Big 12 honors three consecutive times, MVP, Bednarik Award, Lombardi Award, Jack Lambert Award, as well as many others.
Nguyen began his professional career in 1999 with the Dallas Cowboys. During his time there he led the team in special-teams stops as a rookie and became Dallas' starting middle linebacker in his second season. In 2001, he completed his first full season as a starting NFL middle linebacker with a record 112 tackles. In 2003, with Nguyen leading the team in tackles, he was selected second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press.
Nguyen officially retired from the NFL on March 3, 2006 after a neck injury that failed to improve. As of November 2010, Nguyen currently ranks 10th all-time in Cowboys recorded history for career total tackles. In 2007, Dat was hired by the Dallas Cowboys as the assistant linebackers coach and defensive quality control coach.
However, his journey with A&M did not end after he graduated nor after retiring from the NFL. In 2004, Nguyen was inducted into the Texas A&M Athletics Hall Of Fame. In 2005 he was named to the Big 12 Conference's 10th Anniversary Team and in 2010, he was voted on to the AP All-Time Big 12 Team. In 2007, Nguyen was also inducted into the AT&T Cotton Bowl Hall Of Fame. He is considered the best defensive player in Texas A&M football history and one of the greatest defensive players of all-time in the history of the Big 12 Conference. In 2010, after leaving the Cowboys, Nguyen rejoined his alma mater, this time as an inside linebackers coach.
In his first year, the Aggies ended the regular season with wins over Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas and Texas Tech. This marked the first time in school history that A&M had beaten all four of those teams in a single season. This feat helped lead to the resurgence of the Texas A&M "The Wrecking Crew."
Nguyen also helped fortify Von Miller's status in Texas A&M history by coaching him, eventually leading to Miller being awarded the 2010 Butkus Award, an achievement Nguyen never achieved.
For a more in-depth look into Dat’s struggles and triumphs and to help celebrate A&M’s move to the SEC, purchase a discounted copy of Dat Nguyen’s book, Dat: Tackling Life and the NFL using the code 25off when ordering online or by phone.