Shojima Earns Title As 1st Japanese Division I Player

Shojima earns title as 1st Japanese Division I playerHaving made history at the college level, Tatsuaki Shojima wants to keep it going in the pros.
This season, the 23-year-old Shojima became the first Japanese to play in an NCAA Division I football game, appearing in five games at center for UCLA.

According to local media, players of Japanese descent have taken the field in Division I games before, but Shojima was the first whose parents are both Japanese.

Born in Tokyo, Shojima moved to the United States at 9 because of his father’s job and started playing football when he was 14.

He returned to Japan for his third year of high school, where he continued to play football, and made the Japan national team to the IFAF U-19 World Championship.

He later returned to the United States, where he played at a two-year junior college before enrolling in UCLA.

At 190 centimeters and 132 kilograms, Shojima is built for the offensive line position of center, which is responsible for snapping the ball to the quarterback and blocking the defense.

While initially a reserve, Shojima made his debut against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Sept. 10.

Up through the game on Nov. 26 against the University of California in Berkeley, Shojima played in five games, including stints on special teams as part of the punt unit.

Sharpening his skills in UCLA, a top program that has sent many players to the NFL, Shojima said, “I have gradually come to see the next level.”

Japanese have already appeared in baseball’s major leagues, the NBA and the NHL, but have yet to make an NFL roster. Shojima’s accomplishment of playing on the major college level has raised hopes for a first Japanese NFL player.

“While it’s a dream of mine, my philosophy is to concentrate on what’s in front of me,” Shojima said.

“Next year, my goal is to become a player that can make a bigger contribution at UCLA.”

As he takes each step forward, an even bigger stage awaits.