CFL Global Prospect Shines in X-Bowl MVP performance

CFL Global Prospect Shines in X-Bowl MVP performance
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An MVP Performance. That’s what came from global CFL prospect Running Back Taku Lee as he carried the ball 21 times for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns in Japan’s X Bowl XXXIV this week.

Both of those scores were enough to see Lee’s team, the Obic Seagulls take the title in a tense game by a score of 13-7 against the Fujitsu Frontiers.

This was the Obic Segaulls 11th appearance in the X-Bowl game and their ninth win. A win that came against the defending champions and denied Fujistsu the chance to be the first team to win the X-Bowl on five straight occasions.

Lee’s MVP performance was at the heart of returning Obic to the top of the X-League tree. Some heartbreaking losses in the big game followed a run of 4 title wins from 2010-13. Ultimately however Obic’s victory gave the club a record ninth X League title.

This one was tense too. It came down to the last play of the game. Fujitsu drove downfield. But were denied as Obic defensive back Hayate Kubo broke up the final pass in the End Zone.

The X-League

Founded in 1971, Japan’s X-League is the oldest non-collegiate american football league in the world outside of Northern America.

By winning this game, Obic have set up a matchup with Kwansei Gakuin University, champions of the 75th Koshien Bowl.  They will square off in the 74th Rice Bowl.

So we can see that a formalised American football championship game has been played in Japan since the late 1940’s.

Let’s put that into context. We are up to Britbowl 33 in the UK. Whilst the GFL, perhaps the strongest European league, have gone as far as German Bowl 41.

The NFL celebrated its’ 100th year and the CFL has passed the sixty year mark. (Both countries have a longer history of the sport too).

Taku Lee – MVP

So who is Taku Lee the MVP of this game? He was one of the first players the CFL invited to a global combine in Toronto. Lee passed the CFL tryout held for Japanese players on Feb. 1 in Tokyo this year.

Lee established himself as an elite running back by his senior season with the Keio Unicorns. Winning rushing titles in the Kantoh Collegiate League in the 2015 and 2016 seasons with 971 and 975 yards, respectively.

As a senior, he was called up to the Japan national team for the 2015 IFAF World Championship in the United States. Lee stood out because he was the only college player on the squad at the time.

Taku Lee in the Spring League. Image from AFI

He previously signed for the Spring League and has impressed XFL scouts.

Lee was named the X League Rookie of the Year in 2017. And now he can add title game MVP to the list.

Covid derails dreams

After the CFL Global Combines in Japan, Lee went to LA to attend the EXOS combine preparation program. Eveything was derailed however because of the pandemic. He is quoted as saying, “I spent almost a month there earlier this year preparing for the CFL Global Draft but as soon as the coronavirus pandemic hit I flew home to Japan and I have been here ever since, waiting.”

Who knows if global players will have their own call-up alongside the 2021 CFL draft? Especially as all of that fell apart once the 2020 CFL season was cancelled.

Finding talent is possible. Like when Winnipeg selected Thiadric Hansen (LB) of the Potsdam Royals in the 2019 European Draft. Hansen would have a huge impact play on special teams in the Grey Cup.

It’s that kind of inspiration that a global player, and MVP, like Lee would want to follow in the footsteps of.

Will he get the chance? Because we know the CFL is facing financial constraints. Will that make the league more insular? It will be fascinating to find out.

Banner Image: Taku Lee X-Bowl game MVP and CFL global prospect. Image from theJapantimes.

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