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Fujita thriving under coach who likes "smart players"

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Brett Martel / Associated Press JACKSON, MS -- A week hardly goes by without Saints coach Sean Payton stressing how important a roster full of smart players is to forging a winning football team. Enter linebacker Scott Fujita, one of ...

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Old 07-31-2007, 10:18 PM   #1
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Cool Fujita thriving under coach who likes "smart players"

Brett Martel / Associated Press

JACKSON, MS -- A week hardly goes by without Saints coach Sean Payton stressing how important a roster full of smart players is to forging a winning football team.

Enter linebacker Scott Fujita, one of the first free agents acquired under the Payton regime in 2006 and now a leader in the Saints' linebacker corps.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Fujita, whose adoptive father is of Japanese heritage, played at Cal-Berkeley, one of the most highly regarded state universities in the country from an academic standpoint.

And get this. Although Fujita played football at Rio Mesa (Calif.) High School, he did not enroll at Cal on an athletic scholarship. He was accepted based purely on his academic background, majored in political science, walked on to the football team, and ended up not only getting his undergraduate degree but followed it up with a masters in education.

"The football part of it. I didn't know if that was going to happen or not," Fujita said after a recent training camp practice. "I never thought it was that realistic. So for me it was about trying to find a way to get some kind of academic scholarship together to kind of ease the burden on my parents."

Fujita said he also could have attended Ivy League schools Columbia or Dartmouth, but liked the idea of possibly playing college ball in the Pac-10 conference.

He ended up a fifth-round draft choice of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2002 and played there during his first three years in the NFL.

Payton's first exposure to Fujita was in Dallas in 2005. Fujita was traded to the Cowboys at the beginning of that season, while Payton was an assistant there under Bill Parcells.

"He's come in here and provided obviously stability at the (strong side) linebacker position and also leadership on defense," Payton said. "He's worked real hard and really improved and I think he's still improving, so it's a good sign for us."

In the process, Fujita has emerged as one of the more popular Saints among New Orleans fans. He routinely speaks about the inspiration he draws from the people of rebuilding New Orleans and how much he enjoys living in the historic heart of the city, not far from the French Quarter and within walking distance of a number of renowned restaurants.

A sushi restaurant in the city's gentrified warehouse district, where Fujita lives with wife Jaclyn, even named a special "Fujita roll" after him.

Fujita spends the offseasons in California, working out on his own, eschewing the trend of hiring a personal trainer.

"I don't have to go out and spend money on other people and count on them to get me ready to play," Fujita said. "I just feel like I've been doing this long enough. I know my body better than anyone else, so I'd rather just crawl in a dark cave and kind of train on my own."

He's returned, he said, determined to help the Saints avoid falling into the trap of overconfidence that proved to be Kansas City's downfall in 2004, when they went 7-9 one season after posting a 13-3 mark.

"I do feel like in a way we all just expected ourselves to end up in the Super Bowl" in Kansas City, Fujita recalled. "We just expected everything to take over where it left off, and that's not the case in this league. You've got 31 other teams who are thinking the same way in terms of having an opportunity to win a championship. You've got to start from scratch each year."

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Old 07-31-2007, 10:24 PM   #2
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Re: Fujita thriving under coach who likes "smart players"

Fujita has brought back some respectability to the LB corps - his 2nd half against the Eagles in the playoff game was textbook.

This group still has quite a ways to go before I can start making any comparisons to the DP, but at least I don't have to cringe over the missed tackles (Hodge) and missed opportunies that festered under Haz
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