NFL player Samson Ebukam’s Inspiring Journey and Love for Japanese Culture”

Samson Ebukam’s journey from Nigeria to the top of American football the NFL is a fascinating one. Growing up in Nigeria and later moving to the U.S., Ebukam transitioned from international football to American football in high school. He described the NFL as a world where football becomes your entire life, a stark contrast to balancing sports with academics in college.

During his first visit to Japan, Ebukam shared his admiration for Japanese culture, his experiences attending a football spring league game, and his enjoyment of Japanese cuisine, particularly ramen. He also highlighted the enthusiastic energy of Japanese NFL fans and expressed his interest in exploring more Japanese sports and cultural activities in future visits.

Q: You have quite a unique story—growing up in Nigeria, moving to the West Coast, attending high school and college in the U.S., and transitioning from international football to American football. Could you share more about that journey?

Samson Ebukam: Sure! I switched to American football in the 9th grade, though I first tried it in 8th grade without much direction. I was a bit too physical on the pitch, always getting yellow and red cards. So, I decided to try something new, and American football turned out to be a perfect fit for me.

Q: How was the transition from college to the NFL?

Samson Ebukam: It’s a whole new world, really. In the NFL, football becomes your entire life. No more classes or studying subjects like math—it’s all about football now. Your whole day is dedicated to meetings and studying the game. It’s definitely a big change.

Q:  Being in Japan, you’re kind of an ambassador for the NFL and for the U.S., how has this experience been for you? Is it your first time here?

Samson Ebukam: I wouldn’t call myself an ambassador—just a guy who loves football. But yes, this is my first time in Japan. The culture and the people are amazing. I’ve always been a fan of Japanese culture, watching a lot of anime and shows like “Shogun.” It’s really cool to be here and see it all in person. There’s such a rich history that I have a lot of respect for.

Q: Did you attend any games while you were here in Japan?

Samson Ebukam: I went to a football spring league game. It was different but turned out to be really good. I wasn’t expecting it to be that impressive.

Q:  Was it an exhibition game between pro teams here? What differences did you notice between American footballers and those in Japan?

Samson Ebukam: Honestly, you can’t really compare it to the NFL—it’s just different. The NFL is elite, top-tier. I liked what I saw, but I wouldn’t say it’s on the same level. Football isn’t as prioritized here, so they don’t invest as much money, and people don’t grow up playing it with the goal of becoming football players.

Q: Did you notice anything different about NFL fans in Japan compared to those in the States?

Samson Ebukam: The fans? It’s hard to say since I don’t speak Japanese, so I couldn’t understand what they were saying. But the energy was very enthusiastic. Everyone was watching the game and having a good time. You could feel the excitement in the crowd, especially after big hits. It was pretty cool.

Q: Were you able to meet any other NFL fans in Tokyo?

Samson Ebukam: Yeah, I met a few fans, signed some things for them, and took a few pictures. It was cool.

Q: How about your itinerary in Japan? What have you been enjoying?

Samson Ebukam: I’ve been enjoying the food a lot. It’s been amazing—definitely a 10/10. Everywhere I’ve eaten has had fantastic food. I haven’t come across a single place that doesn’t serve great food here.

Q: Do you have a favorite Japanese food? 

Samson Ebukam: Ramen, definitely. I’ve only had it once here, but it was amazing. I probably love it so much because of Naruto.

Q:  If you were to visit Japan or Tokyo again, is there anything you would recommend? Any place or activity you’d revisit?

Samson Ebukam: Definitely catch some sports events if you can. I missed soccer this time, but next visit, I’m aiming for soccer, baseball—because that’s huge—and sumo wrestling. Embrace the culture, treat people respectfully, and enjoy the food; it’s different once you’re back in the States, especially sushi. 

Q: We know you are big Anime fan and that you planned your trip in Japan around your interest. Any favorite anime?

Samson Ebukam: Top two—I gotta keep it short, is Naruto and Dragon Ball. 

*Interview was conducted by Tom Kruse and Kaho Hirose

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