KAWASAKI - Fujitsu Frontiers running back Gino Gordon earned a chance to play in Japan and really cherishes the opportunity.
Gordon was born to an American father, Charles, and a Japanese mother, Fujiko, in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture before the family moved back to Southern California when he was 3 years old. He played college football at Harvard University and graduated in 2011.
“I was really, really interested,” Gordon, 24, said of his own reaction when he first learned of the possibility of coming to Japan to play football. “I really wanted to continue playing football. I really wanted to play at a high level.”
Gordon said that Frank Fernandez, a fellow Harvard graduate who and now plays for the Obic Seagulls of the X League, told him to come over to Japan, and the offensive lineman put him in contact with Fujitsu through Brad Brennan, a former long-time Frontier wide receiver who’s now back in the States.
“I mean, there was an opportunity here to play football and it was a good opportunity,” said Gordon, who arrived in Japan in late July. “And they (Fujitsu) have very, very talented running backs here. But I felt like I could contribute to them, help them get the X League championship, winning everything.
“They believed in me and they kind of took this chance saying, ‘Hey, this guy really wants to play for us and help.’ I’m just really happy they were able to say ‘Yes.’ “
After graduating from Harvard, Gordon tried to embark on a professional football career, but it didn’t work out. Now he’s in Japan and fortunate to continue playing the game. Although the way industrial league is set up is completely different from pro leagues in the States.
Gordon didn’t take it negatively. He was impressed and has respect for the players who go about their double duties as company employees and football players.
“First and foremost, I think it’s pretty amazing that everybody works a job and plays football,” he said. “I’m very, very impressed and amazed to see that they stay focused (in football).”
Interestingly, Gordon compared the circumstances in the X League with the football life at Harvard, where anyone is required high academic standard.
“It’s very similar to here,” Gordon said. “You have to do two things at a high level. You have to be able to study and compete at a high level. So there’s a lot of similarities in the X League and Ivy League.”
Gordon, who stands at 178 cm and weighs in at 88 kg, said he received other football offers from other schools, including Stanford, Oregon and Boise State, but ended up choosing Harvard.
“At the end of the day, my mother said, ‘You can never ever turn down going to Harvard,’ ” he laughed. “After she said that, I made my decision pretty quickly.”
Last year, a pair of American quarterbacks played in the X League and impressed the fans with their arms. Especially former UCLA player Kevin Craft, of the IBM Big Blue, who wowed crowds as he threw for a league-leading 1,628 yards and 20 touchdowns in the five-game regular season.
Now it’s Gordon, who was the co-MVP of the Ivy League in 2010 and is the first import running back in the X League, who has a chance to be special in the ground game to help the Frontiers. They’ve advanced to the league championship game four times, but never left it as winners.
“I think sometimes it just happens,” Gordon referred to the misfortunes of the team. “Hopefully, we have that opportunity to win the championship now, and I’m glad I’m here to help them take the next step and win the championship.”
Fujitsu’s off to a 3-0 start to the season and Gordon has amassed 258 yards rushing with five TDs.