Jul. 17 - bucaneers.com
Shinzo Yamada's world tour is about to hit Orlando, Florida. In two weeks, it will come full circle back to Japan.
On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced that they have agreed to terms with Yamada, a linebacker considered one of Japan's brightest young football stars. After playing America's favorite sport in such locales as Amsterdam and Scotland this spring, Yamada will report to training camp with the Buccaneers on Friday at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.
Yamada's signing is the product of the Buccaneers' first-ever appearance in the American Bowl series. The defending NFL champions will face the New York Jets in Tokyo on August 2 in the 2003 American Bowl, the first Buccaneer game played outside the United States. Each team's roster will include a player from Japan, as the Jets have also signed wide receiver Yoshinobu Imoto.
Yamada and Imoto were teammates with the Amsterdam Admirals during the 2003 NFL Europe League season, which concluded in June. Both men played primarily on special teams, Yamada contributing three kick-coverage stops and Imoto one.
This will not be Yamada's first professional experience in the States. Last year, he went to training camp with the New York Dragons of the Arena Football League, and in 2001 he played for the Memphis Maniax of the short-lived XFL. In Japan, Yamada helped lead his college team, Kwansei-Gakuin University to the Japanese national title during his sophomore season. He also earned the College All-Star game Most Valuable Player Award while at Kwansei.
Yamada will attend the Bucs' training camp with 90 other signed players under a league roster exemption.
“Having an international player from Japan will be a first for us,” said General Manager Rich McKay. “Shinzo competed at an NFL level in NFL Europe and it will be great to see how he handles the competition in an NFL training camp.”
Added NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue: "Japanese players have made great strides in the NFL Europe League. It is exciting to see those players have a chance to further their development by competing in NFL training camps.”