Children look up to Scott Fujita – literally. The former NFL linebacker and new athletic director at All Saints Day School in Carmel stands 6-foot-5, causing students at the pre-K-8 facility to crane their necks greeting him.
But Fujita looks up to the kids, as well. Although he was once named to a list of players Oakland Raiders fans least liked to see suit up against their team and is remembered for vicious hits on opposing ballcarriers, he brightens around children. Even as he speaks of plans for the schools athletic program, the sense of adoration is obvious. Fujita revels in the joy they feel playing and learning.
Fujita moved to Carmel Valley after he retired from professional football. During his last few years in the NFL, he and his wife began scouting for a permanent home and they fell in love with the area. Yet even after stepping from the tumult of football, he remained involved in athletics, working with young runners (he says track and field was his favorite sport) and academics, serving on the All Saints Board of Trustees, where the couple’s children attend school.
His new role at All Saints came about in part, he says, “because I was spending so much time on campus” and because he earned a master’s degree in education while at UC Berkeley.
“I figured I’d put my education to use,” Fujita says with a genial smile.
He hopes to expand the athletic program at All Saints, developing the school’s first running program – to include cross country in the fall and track in the spring – and starting flag football. His position also oversees inter-scholastic soccer, volleyball, basketball, tennis and golf.
Fujita starred in the NFL for 11 seasons, playing with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. Although he picked up a reputation for toughness on the field, in his spare time he lent his voice to different causes, voicing support for LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, and more. When friend and teammate Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS, Fujita formed a foundation to aid ALS patients. The Saints named him “Man of the Year” in 2009, recognizing Fujita’s commitment to charity.
On the field, he helped lead New Orleans to a 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
Weekly: Can anything you learned in pro football be applied to youth sports?
Fujita: Absolutely. I have strong feelings that youth sports can be improved. There are two sides to the spectrum. There’s the win at all costs – that’s one end of the spectrum. At the other there’s the idea that all kids receive medals. Everything in between is process. I want to focus on process – controlling what you can control, being resilient – everything coaches talk about. You can train resilience. There are going to be letdowns. How do you bounce back?
What was the most important lesson you learned from coaches?
It sounds so cliche, but it’s so true: Control what you can control. Focusing on the things under your control, that teaches attitude, work ethic and being accountable.
How did you start working with kids?
It happened organically, when my kids were at the age they started playing sports. It’s the envy of what kids are doing, the enthusiasm and the celebration of the kids here at All Saints. I wish I had an experience like that as a kid. I have a genuine admiration for the faculty and staff. All Saints has a deserved reputation for being really good academically, but what I enjoy is being around the kids – the enthusiasm. These are well-rounded kids.
Are sports programs different than when you were a kid?
They are. There are a lot of sports that I had no access to – lacrosse, water polo. For us it was baseball, basketball and football. It will be fun to be exposed to something new.
Are you ready to be a sports dad?
I think it’s about being focused on the right things. I want to guard against having a sport take over prematurely. Recreational ball – that’s a great thing. Have fun. You have the rest of your life to worry about outcomes.
Is there anything better than winning a Super Bowl?
The Super Bowl was great, a testament to a group of guys and a time. Hoisting the trophy, the confetti, that’s fun. But it’s the guys – what you miss is being around a group of men with a single focus. That’s what I want to teach – a group of peers all looking in the same direction.