In his 20-year career on the gridiron, Tetsuo Takata has always been a winner.
Takata has delivered at every level — high school, college and industrial league — and is considered to be one of the best quarterbacks Japan has ever produced.
Now, as quarterback for the Panasonic Impulse, Takata will try to wrap up his stellar career on a high note with another Japan X Bowl title.
Takata, 34, indicated that he would hang up his helmet and pads for good at the end of this year. So the Japan X Bowl, the X League championship, could be his last game.
If Takata’s Impulse beat their opponents, the Fujitsu Frontiers, he will extend his storied career for a couple more weeks and play in the Rice Bowl against the Koshien Bowl national collegiate champions on Jan. 3 at Tokyo Dome.
The Japan X Bowl will kick off at 7 p.m. on Monday at Tokyo Dome.
“To be honest, I was going to quit after last year,” said Takata, who will be playing in his fifth Japan X Bowl and looking for his third title after winning in 2007 and 2008. “But I changed my mind and summoned the energy to play for one more year. But after this year, that will really be it.”
Yet Takata has no intention of approaching the Japan X Bowl in a farewell fashion. Instead he’ll take the field with the intention of making the most of his last chance.
“I’ve been dreaming of playing at the Dome, so I’m pleased and looking forward to it,” said Takata, who was named Japan X Bowl MVP in 2007. “No matter the result, I’m pleased to get to this chance and I just want to enjoy every moment of it.”
Panasonic is a heavy underdog against the reigning champ Frontiers, who are led by American signal-caller Colby Cameron.
But Takata said that he’s grown so much as a quarterback and believes that the experience he’s accumulated could give the Impulse a chance to win the ballgame.
“As far as running fast or throwing the ball far, perhaps I’ve declined a little bit because of my age,” said Takata, who’s one of the best Japanese quarterbacks in terms of both throwing ability and mobility. “But it’s often said that those techniques aren’t the only things that make a winning quarterback.”
Takata added that successful quarterbacks have composure on the field, and he feels he has that.
“I feel like I don’t get rattled as much as I used to,” said Takata, who won the Christmas Bowl, Japan’s national high school championship, and a pair of Koshien Bowl titles at Ritsumeikan University. “I don’t think that’s something that comes overnight but what you learn on the field.”
Meanwhile, many X League clubs have recruited American quarterbacks, like Cameron, in recent years. Takata isn’t necessarily against the idea, because they could help raise the level of Japanese football.
But at the same time, as he stated, picking up experience by actually playing in games has unparalleled value for quarterbacks, and he thinks hiring Americans could hinder the development of home-grown quarterbacks.
That actually motivates Takata going into the Japan X Bowl. He wants to prove that a team can win a championship without an American quarterback.
“We’ve been able to get to this point with what we have,” said Takata, who completed 76 of his 105 pass attempts and recorded 10 touchdowns (with zero interceptions) in the eight games he played this fall season. “And hopefully, we can get the job done.”
The Impulse, who were undefeated with an 8-0 record during the season, will be making their 14th Japan X Bowl appearance.
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