Very quietly, one member of the UCLA Bruins football program is making a little international history this season.
Gyo Shojima is a second-year offensive lineman for the Bruins, coming to the Pac-12 program as a walk-on in 2015. Prior to this year, he hadn’t played in a game at this level of football.
That all changed a week ago as he took the field for UCLA’s win over New Mexico State last Saturday. That appearance marked the first time, it’s believed, that a Japanese-born player has played in a game at the FBS level.
“I don’t know if there is a true way to figure out if there was a Japanese born player before me,” Shojima said this week according to Scout.com, “but as I know, I’m the first Japanese-born player to play on American soil, in terms of NCAA.”
Shojima and his family moved to the United States when he was nine years old. His father played American football at a university in Japan, but his son didn’t pick up the sport until after he started high school.
Coming out of a California junior college, Shojima held offers from Houston, New Mexico and UAB but opted for UCLA as a preferred walk-on.
The Japan Times noted in a piece earlier this year that James Takada Gray, a walk-on at Utah, was born to a Japanese mother and American father in New York City but was raised in Tokyo. The running back has not played in a game this year.