Japanese Coach Checks Out Colts Offseason Workouts

Former arena player aspires to popularize football in his country.

Mutsumi Takahashi dreams of a day when a Japanese football player makes an NFL active roster.

Perhaps it will be his 12-year-old son, Yosei, who joined his father for a recent visit to the Indianapolis Colts’ complex to watch the team practice during offseason training activities. The father actually assures his son will be an NFL player one day.

Takahashi, 39, has even bigger dreams than that.

“Then one day, a Japan team is going to beat U.S.A. team,” he said. “It will be a long (time), but I think we can do it if we have dreams.”

A Japan coach of the Kobe University Ravens, Takahashi played the game extensively as a linebacker, defensive back and kicker. He became the first Japanese-born player to make it in the Arena Football League and lasted five years. He also played in the X League, Japan’s highest level of football.

He met Colts head coach Chuck Pagano during the 2014 Pro Bowl.

“He was really my assistant head coach over there,” Pagano said. “We got to spend the whole week together over there and we stayed in contact. He wanted an opportunity to come over here and continue to learn American football and hone his skills and take that back and just grow as a coach.

“He’s a really, really good person and a great man. He brought his son with him. It’s a great opportunity for us to open our doors and help somebody like Mutsumi learn the American game and be able to take that back as part of the NFL’s initiative to spread the good news, if you will, about the National Football League.”

At 5-8 and 180, Takahashi smiled when asked about playing linebacker.

“Yes. Can you believe that?” he said.

When reminded American linebackers have more size, the coach said, “That’s right, much bigger.”

Takahashi says football is gaining in popularity in his home country, but a player making it to the NFL would inspire more interest. He likened it to Japanese players such as Ichiro making it in baseball’s Major Leagues.

“My goal is that some Japanese player will be an NFL player, like my son,” he said. “He’s going to be an NFL player.”

Takahashi acknowledges the physicality of the American game will make it a challenge for Japanese players. While some of these young men have speed and skill, they must learn English to make the adjustment.

“We have potential,” Takahashi said.

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.

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