He takes a snap from the center and steps back, looking for a target to throw a pass to. But every receiver is covered, and defensive ends are surging toward him.
league game in May at Oi Stadium in Tokyo. The 41-year-old cannon-armed signal-caller/manager works hard
in training to extend his playing career.
KAZ NAGATSUKA PHOTO
He doesn’t lose his cool. He now takes off and fearlessly rushes forward to gain yards.
A 41-year-old quarterback, Masamitsu Den has been doing this for a long time — and he can still throw and run the ball as well as a 25-year-old signal-caller.
Getting old isn’t bothering Den. What Den hates most as an athlete is to give up. Den believes that even in such a tough, physically-demanding sport like American football, a player can extend his career by working out properly and sustaining a love for the game.
“In the X League (Japan’s top football circuit), most players start thinking about stepping out of the sport when they turn 30-years-old or so, and it’s been believed to be natural,” said Den, the starting quarterback and manager of Club Huskies, a Division Two team of the X League. “But to me you can play more and longer by making an effort”.
While working as a normal employee on weekdays, Den devotes most of his spare time to building his body. He goes to a gym a few times a week and works out for hours at a time. He commutes by bicycle between his home in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, and his company in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, a distance of about 20 km.
By Den’s simple logics, winning simply comes from extensive training.
“It’s easy to win the ballgame — if you train and run hard,” he said after an spring league game in Tokyo.
Den has been known for his cannon arm in Japan, and thanks to his uncompromising training, he said he can still throw the ball 70 yards or so.
“My ideal is to throw a liner in a quick release, though,” Den said.
Den is a former player of the Onward Skylarks of the X League Division One and a collegiate player at Nihon University under the late and legendary coach Mikio Shinotake. Den said he has never felt a burden in playing at the the most nerve-racking of positions while also keeping an eye on his team as manager.
“I think you can do better if you try to do better,” said Den, who comes up with all the passing plays of the Huskies.
“I just want to help keep the population of this sport. Kudo (the Yokohama BayStars’ 44-year-old pitcher Kimiyasu) is still playing. In this sport, once you quit, it’s over and you can’t make a comeback.”
Den also is a die-hard NFL fan. He wears No. 12 for his team and it came from Terry Bradshaw, a former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback. Den said that this summer he wants to visit the preseason training camps of Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots, to study quarterbacks Payton Manning and Tom Brady.
Den’s work will never end. He has always persevered to be more than a football player. Not that he is thinking about his career as a player coming to an end any time soon.
“I think I can play until around 50,” Den said with a laugh. “I’ve not given up my dream to play in the World Cup, either. The next time, I will be about 45-years-old, though.”