Kwansei Gakuin University coach and linebacker Rikiya Ishida as well as six other Japanese have passed the open tryout for the European affiliate of the National Football League, NFL Japan officials said Wednesday.

Linebacker Masaki Tokimoto and wide receiver Yoshinobu Imoto of Onward, wide receiver Nobutaka Horie (Seagulls), defense back Tadanari Sano (Kashima), cornerback Masahiro Nomura (Matsushita Electric) and linebacker Shinzo Yamada (Asahi Drinks) were also named from a field of 46 players.

The seven players will take part in training camps to be held in Florida from late February for a chance to make the roster in the NFL Europe league.

“Last year I played arena football, but I realized this would be more of a short cut into the NFL, so I took part in the tryout,” said Ishida, who played in five games as fullback and linebacker for the Hawaii Islanders earlier this year.

“As long as I go through, I hope to set the best record ever by a Japanese,” added the 23-year-old, who as a senior captained Kwansei Gakuin to its first-ever Rice Bowl title last season.

The NFL Europe League was founded in 1991 and is now considered a stepping stone for players aspiring to make entry into the NFL. The first tryout in Japan was held in 1996.

The league’s 10-game regular season kicks off April 5 and concludes June 8. The World Bowl championship is scheduled for June 14 at Glasgow.

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