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Meet The First Full-Heritage Japanese Person To Play For A Major College Football Team

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Two weeks ago, history was made at the Rose Bowl when the UCLA Bruins played the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels and it wasn’t the Bruins’ 42 to 21 victory. The game marked the first time a player born in Japan of full Japanese heritage participated in a Football Bowl Subdivision game. “I was honored,” said Gyo Shojima, the history-making 290-pound second-string offensive lineman, “but I never thought about it beforehand so it wasn’t that big of a deal for me.”


Shojima was born in Tokyo and emigrated to the United States at the age of nine when his father wanted to start an overseas consulting business. As a child, Shojima was an accomplished swimmer and black belt in Shinji Kempo, a Japanese martial art. But when he started at Redondo High School in California, he decided to take a shot at playing football—a sport his father played in his youth. After high school, he attended Santa Monica College before making the UCLA squad as a preferred walk-on. “Living in L.A., we either become a fan of UCLA or the other team,” Shojima told The Los Angeles Times, referring to USC. “So I became a UCLA fan. That was my dream school.”

Although his achievement puts him forever in the record books, it hasn’t really affected Shojima. “I’ve never really looked at myself as nothing more than just a football player,” Shojima said, “so I didn’t really care about the race or the nationality.” Last week, Shojima took the field for the first time in a victory over New Mexico State making him the first full-blooded Japanese player to play in a Football Bowl Subdivision game.

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