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Seward out to have big impact in Japan

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Kyoto University’s football team recently revealed that it had acquired Adam Seward, a former NFL player, as its new linebackers coach — perhaps the biggest news before the Kansai collegiate season kicked off this past weekend.

And as much as the Gangsters — and everyone in Japanese football circles — are delighted to have someone like him, Seward, who played in the NFL as a linebacker and on special teams for five seasons from 2005, was thrilled to take the opportunity because he had been inspired by his Japanese friends and had wanted to live in the country.

“It has always been a dream of mine to live in Japan,” Seward told The Japan Times in an e-mail interview. “When I was a student-athlete at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, I had a Japanese friend named Kentaro who really turned me on to Japanese culture. He taught me how to write hiragana, and we often spent time eating Japanese food together.”

Another Japanese friend helped him get a job coaching football in Japan while he was working to earn his MBA at the University of Southern California.

“About three months ago, my close friend and classmate at the University of Southern California, Nami, sent an email on my behalf to several top Japanese football programs expressing my interest in coaching football in Japan,” said Seward, who mainly played for the Carolina Panthers. “As soon as Kyoto University responded, Nami was ecstatic. She spent an entire half-hour describing Kyoto — going on and on about the university’s strong tradition, the city’s history and beauty, and the wonderful culture that is embedded in the Kansai region.

“After hearing all of that, I was sold on Kyoto. Therefore, when I came to Kyoto University for an interview, I did everything in my power to show everyone involved in the program that I could make a positive difference.”

For Seward, living outside his home country is nothing new. He was already somewhat familiar with Asia as well. The Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, native had previously worked at the NFL representative offices in Mexico and China. (He speaks Spanish and Chinese).

Coming to one of the top Japanese universities in academics as well as in football, and being a coach there, is a wholly new and unique experience for the 32-year-old.

“As someone who truly understands what it means to be a ‘student-athlete,’ I believe that a university should strive to excel in both academics and athletics,” Seward said.

“In my opinion, the student-athletes here at Kyoto University epitomize what it means to achieve great success in both areas. They handle a grueling and demanding class schedule at one of Japan’s top universities, yet find the drive and desire to compete equally hard on the football field. Our student-athletes make me proud to call myself a member of Kyoto University.”

The Gangsters dominated Japan’s college football scene in the 1980s and early 90s, winning six Koshien Bowl national championships. They helped create a football boom in Japan during that period.

They’ve fallen on tough times since then. Kyoto University has not earned a Koshien Bowl berth since 1996, the last year it won the national title.

But Seward said that the Gangsters would have a shot at the Koshien Bowl by coming out on top in the eight-team Division One of the Kansai league, indisputably the toughest league in Japanese college football, this year.

Kyoto lost 14-9 in its season opener against Ryukoku University on Sunday.

At a preseason news conference in Osaka, a few days before the Kansai collegiate league opened its 2014 season on Friday, Kyoto University’s Daisuke Nishimura seemed to be one of the happiest head coaches on the podium as he revealed Seward’s integration into the school’s football program.

“He’s the real deal,” Nishimura said. “If he remains with us, we want him to be our defensive coordinator next year.”

Yet Nishimura had no intention of limiting Seward to just Kyoto University, which finished fourth with a 5-2 record last year. He added that he hoped Seward could teach football to high school players as well as other teams in Japan.

“I think that he’s probably played in the NFL the most among those who have ever come to Japan,” Nishimura smiled. “I expect our players will develop both as players and human beings through him.”

Though he’s only been in Japan for a short time, Seward already has some clues about Japanese football in general and is optimistic about its future.

“It’s amazing to see the amount of progress that has been achieved here,” he said. “I actually have a couple of teammates that played semi-professionally in the X League. Every one of them had nothing but great things to say about football in Japan.

“With the increased collaboration that is occurring between Japanese and American football programs, and the commitment that coaches and players in Japan have made with regards to constant improvement, I see an extremely bright future for football in this country.”