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[SPORTS] Scott Fujita - An Asian American w/o a Drop of Japanese Blood

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  • madchinaman
    The Saint With Green Eyes, Community Ties Scott Fujita, the five-year NFL veteran who once played for Parcells, wants to rekindle the spirits of the Gulf Coast
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 15, 2006
      The Saint With Green Eyes, Community Ties
      Scott Fujita, the five-year NFL veteran who once played for
      Parcells, wants to rekindle the spirits of the Gulf Coast one year
      after the hurricanes.
      By LYNDA LIN
      http://pacificcitizen.org/sports.htm


      The name on the football jersey reads "Fujita," but by his own
      admission, he does not have one drop of Japanese blood. Instead New
      Orleans Saints linebacker number 55 has what he calls dual heritage —
      a chiseled jaw line and green Irish eyes that belie his other
      identity. Yes. Scott Fujita is Japanese American.

      He's been telling everyone this simple fact for as long as he can
      remember; it's just that people don't tend to believe him.

      "I'd get a lot of questions from substitute teachers. They would ask
      me to provide ID," said Scott, 27, about his formative years growing
      up in Camarillo, Calif. Of course in Ventura County, with its large
      Hispanic population, he was also frequently called "Fajita," he
      added.

      It comes with the territory of being a 6-foot-5 inch, 250-pound
      National Football League player who is defined as being "not
      Japanese" as often as he is lauded for being a consistent ball
      player. Scott, who was adopted as a baby by Ventura County JACLers
      Rod and Helen Fujita, has learned to handle the quizzical looks and
      the double takes with humor and an unwavering determination towards
      achieving every set goal.

      Challenge is a motif in Scott's life; it follows him and he
      inevitably conquers it. Now he's about to embark on a new football
      season and his fifth year in the NFL playing for an underdog team
      that was decimated by hurricanes one year ago.

      He's again ready for the challenge — it's in his blood.

      Nurturing a Real Identity
      "I'm not delusional. I'm not a person trying to be someone I'm not.
      I don't have a single drop of Japanese blood in me," said Scott to
      the Pacific Citizen from Jackson, Mississippi where he is stationed
      during the preseason.

      His identity and sense of self was hewed out of his relationship
      with his family, whose lineage is also deeply rooted in strength.
      Scott's grandfather, Nagao Fujita, was a member of the 442nd
      Regimental Combat Team during World War II who fought for a country
      that forced his family into an internment camp. In the desert sands
      of Gila River, Rod was born. Nagao, who was the first English-
      speaking JA attorney at the time, regaled young Scott and older
      brother Jason (who is also adopted) with heroic war stories.

      "There's something about the Japanese culture where the first
      grandson is spoiled rotten, so my brother Jason got everything — he
      got war swords, you name it," said Scott. From his grandmother he
      heard about the desolation of his father's birthplace.

      "I grew up with a lot of interest in the subject [of internment],"
      he added.

      Growing up, Scott visited Obon festivals and introduced Caucasian
      friends to Japanese comfort food. Recently he found a sushi
      restaurant near his home in New Orleans for a taste of home cooking.

      "We don't know how old he was when he realized he wasn't Japanese!"
      said Rod.

      And while many young Asian Pacific Americans still struggle with
      their own identities, Scott wears his on his sleeve.

      "I feel privileged to have dual heritage."

      Scott plans to impart the same cultural lessons on his future kids.

      "My wife [Jaclyn] is blonde too," said Scott, who jokes that they'll
      have some more explaining to do when they have little Fujitas.

      Fifth Round Pick
      At five, Scott decided he wanted to be like Michael Jordan, so he
      asked his dad to teach him how to dribble. At that time, the
      Fujita's basketball hoop did not have a rim, so with permission
      Scott spent hours just practicing to dribble on their neighbor's
      driveway. Then in high school Scott decided he wanted to learn how
      to throw a football.

      "I knew he had talent. I never realized where he could go with it,"
      said Rod, 63, a retired high school teacher.

      Rod enrolled Scott in Pop Warner football where he played the
      running back position.

      Desi Sandlin, a former coach of the Road Runner's Pop Warner team,
      remembers a scrappy seven-year-old Scott running on the field for
      the first time.

      "He was all skin and bones!" said Sandlin with a laugh. "He was so
      determined. Everything he did was 100 percent. You know when kids
      hit for the first time they're kind of shy? When Scott hit we knew
      it was something special."

      Seeing his talent, Sandlin snuck Scott into the linebacker position.
      Now Sandlin jokes "See. I knew where he had to be."

      In high school, Scott decided he wanted to play Division I football.
      His options weren't limited — he graduated with a 4.3 grade point
      average from Rio Mesa High School. He was a walk-on for Cal's
      football team, but finished off with a scholarship and a degree in
      political science. He also earned a master's degree in education in
      one year.

      Despite his charmed life, his father says things usually don't come
      easy for Scott — his son just works hard.

      The NFL came calling and Scott was drafted out of college in the
      fifth round to the Kansas City Chiefs. In his first year, he was
      honored with the club's Mack Lee Hill Award, an honor presented
      annually to the team's top rookie or first-year performer. In his
      second season as a full-time starter, Scott led the defense with 112
      tackles.

      Then he injured his ankle and rumors swirled about whether he would
      get back in the game. When he was ready, the team had spent the
      money elsewhere and Scott asked to be traded.

      A week before the 2005 season started, the JA headed to Texas to
      become a Cowboy.

      Playing for Parcells
      The Dallas Cowboys can best be remembered for its coach's 2004
      gaffe. While talking to reporters about his quarterbacks coach Sean
      Payton, Coach Bill Parcells said the team had a few "Jap plays,"
      adding "Surprise things."

      "I don't take things like that lightly," said Fujita about racial
      slurs. He had not heard about Parcell's ethnic slur. "Like I said, I
      feel privileged to have dual heritage, and I didn't face much
      personal ridicule, but you hear comments here and there. People grow
      up in different places … I have called people out before and they've
      apologized." If he knew about the comment, Scott said he would've
      confronted Parcells about that and he's confidant that the coach
      would've apologized.

      Ironically, Payton is now head coach of the Saints, where Scott in
      March signed a four-year, $12 million contract.

      He arrived in New Orleans after the storms.

      "When you see it in person, it's a lot worse." He was in town
      looking for a place to live and they drove through the 9th Ward. "It
      just blew me away."

      One year after the hurricanes tore the Gulf Coast apart, Scott along
      with teammate Reggie Bush expect to restore some hope in the region.

      Help change one person at a time, said Scott. "I know who I am."
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