/

Fujita proud to discuss family’s Japanese heritage

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Standing 196 cm, Scott Fujita is one of the tallest linebackers in the NFL. But that fact alone doesn’t make him a rare kind of player.

Fujita was adopted by a third generation Japanese-American, Rodney Fujita, who was born inside an Arizona internment camp during World War II, and his wife Helen when he was just 6 months old.

Fujita doesn’t shy away from talking about his history and childhood at all and speaks proudly about his family and youth.

“I’ve always felt that way,” Fujita said during a media interview session for Super Bowl XLIV on Thursday, asked if he grew up feeling like a half-Japanese. “I feel like I’m half-Japanese at heart.”

Primarily influenced by his adoptive father, Fujita grew up practicing Japanese habits and learning the culture. He would celebrate, for example, on New Year’s Day or Children’s Day, and eat with chopsticks.

“My father is a Japanese-American and my mother is a Caucasian,” said Fujita, a native of Ventura, Calif. “So obviously, New Year’s Day is big for our family, you know, oshogatsu. We had obon festivals every year. All those things.”

Now the 30-year-old Fujita, who previously played for the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys (where he was with offensive coordinator Sean Payton, who is the current head coach of the Saints), is going about the biggest business of his football career by taking on the Indianapolis Colts at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday.

Having a Japanese family name has nothing to do with the game, but Fujita quickly denied the notion and responded that it means so much to him.

“Sean Payton was teasing me the other day, saying, ‘You may go another 100 years to see another Fujita in the Super Bowl,’ ” said a smiling Fujita, who posted 58 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles in the 2009 season.

Fujita, who signed with New Orleans as a free agent in 2006, had the most number of tackles for the Chiefs in 2003 and 2004.

To this day, Fujita has not visited Japan. He certainly wants to make a trip to the place where his family has roots.

But he laughingly added that it is not going to happen in the near future — due to a family matter.

“There probably won’t be (a trip to Japan) until I retire because we’ve got two young daughters,” he said. “So traveling abroad is severely limited.”