YOKOHAMA – Speaking on the field with a chilly breeze blowing in early December, Obic Seagulls defensive end Byron Beatty Jr. joked that it was actually like “a nice day in Colorado.”
Well, until some six years ago, he had no idea what the frozen tundra would feel like.
Beatty Jr. is a Hawaii native and grew up there until he went to the University of Colorado to play football.
“It was a shock,” Beatty Jr. said of how it felt like to move from Hawaii to Colorado, after his Obic Seagulls’ 24-10 win over the Nojima Sagamihara Rise in the semifinals of the X League playoffs at Yokohama Stadium on Dec. 2.
“It was a cultural shock. It was an environmental shock. I loved the ocean, and I didn’t have it. The first day I went there, I had surf shorts and a tank top. So I was putting on the worst possible outfit in the snow.”
Beatty Jr. came to Chiba Prefecture to play for the Seagulls this year, and although the climate may not be as severe as in Colorado, Beatty Jr. has landed in another place where he won’t need his surf shorts and tank tops as often as he would as in Hawaii.
But it’s not a problem for the 24-year-old Beatty Jr. He appears to be enjoying every moment of his first season in Japan.
“Japan was actually one of the places I’ve always wanted to go to,” Beatty Jr. said.
Like many of the other American players here, Beatty Jr. arrived in Japan through a Hawaii connection. Former Seagulls head coach and Hawaii native David Stant introduced Beatty Jr. to the club.
Beatty Jr. thought the window to the NFL had closed after he suffered a broken left foot during his stint at Colorado. When the injury had healed, he called Stant, who lived near his home in Hawaii.
“A year later, he said ‘There’s a shot for you to go to play for Obic,’ ” said Beatty Jr., who started 10 games as an outside linebacker in his senior season at Colorado, registering 36 tackles and five sacks (earning a honorable mention for the All-Big 12 team chosen by the league’s coaches). “And now I’m here.”
The 188-cm Beatty Jr., whose uncle is former New Orleans Saints guard Chris Naeole, didn’t take too long to show he’s the real deal in the X League. He’s fast and agile while also being exceptionally powerful, and it’s virtually impossible for anyone to stop him in a one-on-one situation.
Seagulls captain Naoki Kosho said that the entire defensive squad, including himself, has been inspired so much by the athletic American.
“He plays at a higher level in many aspects,” said Kosho, himself one of the best linebackers in Japan. “What amazes me about him is that he keeps pursuing (a ball carrier) until the play is over. Since his arrival, our defense has played harder because we have a good role model in him.”
Next Monday night, the newcomer will try to help the two-time reigning X League champion Seagulls pursue their third straight title in the Japan X Bowl against the Kajima Deers at Tokyo Dome.
If they seize the championship banner, then they will face the Koshien Bowl winner (either Hosei University or Kwansei Gakuin University) in the Jan. 3 Rice Bowl for the national championship.
But Beatty Jr., who had 19½ tackles and three sacks in eight games this season, including the playoffs, doesn’t get too worked up about much. He just tries to keep performing better in each game than he did the game before.
“One of my goals is always to play assignments perfectly,” Beatty Jr. said. “Always make sure I know my assignments.”