Carolina Panthers safety Haruki Nakamura is one of the few Asian Americans in the NFL. He is also one of the few (only?) NFL players who are better known in Japan rather than the US. Nakamura got his start in football in an interesting although disturbing (for this parent) way, as told in this story from the LA Times.
Haruki’s father was an 8th degree Judo master and preferred that his children do Judo. He didn’t want them to do football for fear of injuries to their knees. When Haruki was 10, his older brother Yoshi secretly filled out paper work for him to join a football league and helped him hide his pads for a while. After being discovered, Haruki argued that one of the family rules was if you start a sport, you have to stick out for the whole season, and apparently the rule got him through the season and eventually into the NFL.
I have to say as a parent, that part of his story bothers me. Knee injuries in football are less of a concern to me than concussions. Number One Son and Number Two Son have played on their middle school’s flag football team for some years, but didn’t want Number One Son to play tackle football when he got into high school. They both played wide receiver and cornerback, and I worry about high speed collisions that those positions would have in tackle football. Even Superbowl quarterback Kurt Warner is reluctant to let his children play football. Fortunately for me, Number One Son chose a different sport to do in the Fall.
You might be curious how he became known in Japan, even though Haruki Nakamura had never had been to Japan. Every year, a NHK-Japan news crew goes out to check up on him. He also became known for fundraising for Japanese relief efforts after the earthquake and Tsunami.