BLACKSBURG, VA. -- Eugene Chung was always taught that America is a free country and you can achieve whatever you want to achieve. It was always that simple to him. Never mind that when he was growing up in McLean, Va., he turned on the television set and there were black people and white people and Hispanic people playing professional basketball and football and baseball -- but no Asians. He wondered where the Asian pro athletes were.

The American Dream is different things to different people. To some the Dream appears at the front door with a winning lottery ticket. To others it is a house in the suburbs with a station wagon in the garage. But for Chung, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound mountain of a man and offensive lineman at Virginia Tech, the Dream showed itself as professional football.

Chung, considered one of the top five collegiate offensive linemen, will become only the third Asian and second Korean-American to play professional football. Chances are he will become the first Asian drafted in the first round. The first Korean-American to play pro football was John Lee, a former kicker for the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Raiders who was selected in the second round.

A significant number of Pacific Islanders -- Hawiians and Samoans, in particular -- have played in the NFL, but the game's reach has rarely extended farther across the Pacific.

According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first Asian to play in the league was Walter Achiu, who was a 150-pound running back-drop kicker for the Dayton Triangles in the 1927 and 1928 seasons. Little is known about Achiu, who went to the University of Dayton and eventually was inducted into the school's football hall of fame in 1974. His second wife, Susan McKinney Achiu, who lives in Oregon, said her husband's mother was Hawaiian and his father Chinese. She said Achiu died in March 1989.

Some of the NFL's best talent evaluators, such as Washington Redskins General Manager Charley Casserly, say they would be somewhat surprised if the all-American Chung wasn't picked in the first round of the draft on April 26-27 in New York. Everyone cites his incredible athletic ability that has been enhanced by a brown belt in judo.

Not only does Chung have the strength of a grizzly bear (he can powerlift almost 400 pounds), but imagine a grizzly bear with the body control of Michael Jackson. That's Chung.

Not bad for a guy who received only one scholarship offer in high school.

And he is different in another way: While some people understandably shy from the role of racial or ethnic crusader, Chung, who went to Oakton High School, proudly wears a 'K' on his chest. If it's possible, Chung, who weighed 260 pounds as a college freshman, said he would like to "break the stereotype" about Asians and athletic ability. He explains it this way:

"You always have your stereotypes about Asians. People say they're always small, they can't play sports, and if they do it's tennis or golf or something like that. I think by having a chance to play in the NFL it's going to do a lot for the Korean community. I'd like to be somewhat of a spokesperson for that. Playing in the NFL, you're going to be in the limelight.

"This whole thing could do a lot for the confidence of the Korean community. I think a lot of Koreans still have memories of the Korean War and the Vietnam War and even the bombing of Japan. I think by doing this it will let the people know back in Korea and in the United States to be aware that we are able to do this. We're not a meek people. The Korean {American} kids should know that Asians can do more than play Ping-Pong." A Missing Image

As a child, Chung was an athletic kid, the kind of boy who tried just about every sport and was pretty good at all of them. His father, Choon Chung, wanted Eugene to play baseball at an early age because "he was too skinny to play football." And like most other athletic kids who dreamed of being Magic Johnson or Walter Payton, Chung spent many hours watching sports on television. But there was a problem.

Said Chung: "When I was growing up I would watch sports and say, 'Wait a second. How come there are no Korean guys playing basketball? How come they're not out there slamming the ball in the basket and tearing the rim down? How come they're not playing pro baseball and hitting that home run? What's going on with that?'

"This isn't a political statement for me. Not quite. All I'm trying to say is that we're a capable people. I'm trying to show that Koreans can play in the NFL. I want to prove that football isn't just a dominated-by-the-majority sport. This can open more doors and give {Korean} people hope that it can be done."

Chung will have the opportunity to play football in a world completely different from the one the first Asian pro football player knew. Records show that when Achiu played he was listed as "Hawaiian-American-Caucasian." That all-encompassing classification probably allowed Achiu to travel and eat with the team during a time of racial segregation in much of America.

Susan Achiu, who is white, said her husband faced "constant discrimination" as both a football player and later as a professional wrestler who wrestled two matches a night, six times a week. "Once at a restaurant in El Paso, Texas," she remembered about an incident that occured during the 1950s, "someone walked up to me and said, 'Couldn't you find a white man?' "

Times have changed. But some wonder how much. Jerry Yu, executive director of the Korean-American Coalition in Los Angeles, a civil rights group, thinks Chung could feel the sting of the current round of Japan and Asian bashing once he enters the NFL spotlight and is exposed to fans. "There are people who might hate black people but will like and support black basketball players," said Yu. "But for Asians it's different. Eugene might not be as liked because to some he represents 'the foreign competition.' I see that as a very clear possibility."

"I don't agree," said Chung's agent, Jim Steiner. "Once Eugene establishes himself in the league, he's going to blend in because he's an offensive lineman. Most fans can't even tell who the offensive lineman are. You can't see their faces. Many times you can't even tell if they're white or black."A Proud Father

But that is not something Chung is concerned with now. He simply wants to enjoy his status as one of college football's top linemen. It is easy to see where he got his ambition and spirit. Choon Chung came to the United States -- alone -- in 1956, following the Korean War. He went to the City College of New York to study public administration, then to graduate school in political science at Columbia University (it was there he met his wife, who died when Eugene was a child).

Choon Chung studied law at Yale after Columbia. He said he met Gerald Ford and Martin Luther King Jr. there. He said he met King at a lunch in the civil rights leader's honor, and that King was interested in him because he was the only Korean at Yale.

The elder Chung, now retired in Northern Virginia, said that after Yale he worked primarily as an attorney in the Washington area. He is a private man and revealed few details about himself. But there was one thing he wanted people to know: that his son was taught there are no limitations. If you want to play football, he told Eugene, then play football. If you want to split atoms, then split atoms. He told this to each of his three sons.

"I told them that this is their country," Choon said. "I told them they can do whatever they want to do. America is free. I'm so deeply moved by what Eugene has done so far. I don't tell him that as much as I should, but I'm telling you that I am such a proud father."

Pride is one thing Jerry Yu also talked about in reference to Chung. He said that once Korean-Americans begin to find out about Chung, a wave of support for him will build in the Korean community. "The more success he has, the better it will be for our community," said Yu. "There could be a lot of pressure on him because he will be trying to make it in the NFL and at the same time have the whole Korean community hoping he does well."

If anyone knows what Chung will face in the NFL in terms of pressure it is Lee, one of the most prolific kickers in NCAA history. Born in South Korea, Lee and his family came to the United States when he was 12. He attended UCLA and set a collegiate record for consistency, making 79 of 92 field goal attempts, or 85.9 percent. Lee was nearly perfect on his points after, making a school-record 135 of 136, including 108 straight.

He was drafted by the Cardinals in the second round of the 1986 draft (making him the highest-drafted kicker in the 1980s), 32nd overall, and received a four-year, $900,000 contract from the Cardinals.

But St. Louis cut Lee after only one season. Soon after, the Raiders picked him up, but they released him too. Lee was under the normal pressure any rookie kicker faces in the NFL, but there was added pressure. He now sells real estate in California.

"That's something {Chung} will have to deal with," said Lee. "The added pressure. The Korean community will have high hopes for him. Once people {in the Korean community} hear about him, they will follow everything he does." A Very Good Prospect

Asked if he ever experienced racism in the NFL or expects Chung to face any, Lee said: "I didn't see any and I don't think he will. If there's racism in the NFL you're better off asking the black players and coaches about it. They face it more than any Korean ever would."

Chung said he doesn't think he'll see racism in the NFL and faced none in the sleepy town of Blacksburg. "I really didn't get hassled at all being a Korean here," said Chung. "I faced more prejudice being an athlete. There's that stereotype of a football player here. People think athletes get everything paid for, that {athletes} get {good} grades given to them; they get this, they get that. None of that's true. I just wish I could take a few people to class with me and show them what I go through. I'm sure they'd change their minds."

Chung is Virginia Tech's most famous athlete since Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl defensive end Bruce Smith, who won the Outland Trophy as the nation's top lineman as a senior with Virginia Tech in 1984.

NFL scouts and personnel directors say Chung has all the makings of a great lineman. He has tested well for NFL clubs and the scouts continue to pour into Blacksburg to pinch and probe and ponder. One day recently 10 NFL scouts worked out Chung. He has extremely quick feet and moves through agility drills with an impressive combination of grace and power.

One of the more striking features about him is his solidity. He has very little flab on his body. Chung can bench-press 225 pounds 25 times and along with that power is a 32-inch vertical leap. He gave up just one sack in his last two seasons.

"Most Asian people I knew had been small," said Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer, describing his first meeting with Chung. "I knew that this was the biggest Asian man I had ever seen. But the first time I met him and his dad, his race wasn't even an issue. I thought we had a guy who was a good athlete. I had a feeling he was going to be successful because it was apparent that his dad had instilled in him a strong desire to be successful."

"The bottom line," Casserly said, "is that he's going to be a great player for someone."

The Virginia Tech coaches devised a special pass play just to take advantage of Chung's power and speed. The play calls for Chung to release from his split tackle spot, block a nearby lineman, then run outside to lead a receiver downfield after a quick screen pass. Usually he took on cornerbacks half his size. Pancakes should be so flat.

One season, he had 13 "decleaters," meaning he knocked the opposing players off their feet. And Chung wasn't doing this against the Seven Dwarfs. Virginia Tech played such teams as Florida State, Oklahoma, North Carolina State and East Carolina.

"What that says is here is this big old 290-pound guy coming out and blocking corners in the open field," said Beamer. "And he's running very well. I mean there just aren't many linemen who can do that. That put Eugene above the rest of the pack."

"The thought of playing in the NFL is pretty wild to me," said Chung. "If you told me five years ago that I'd be sitting in the situation right now, I'd say no way. It's very exciting. I'd love to play in Washington. The main thing is that I will get a chance to see different people."

Different is what happened on the Virgina Tech campus recently. A television crew from South Korea's Seoul Broadcasting System based in Washington followed Chung around campus for several days. The feature was to be beamed back to Seoul so people could see one of their own making good in the United States.

Chung was asked if he has a responsibility to the Korean people to do his best. Chung said yes. He wants to break stereotypes.

When the interview was over, the reporter smiled and said: "Korea will be watching."