You might not know Noriaki Kinoshita yet, but you might soon enough. And if Kinoshita has his way, it will be for more than a trivia answer.
Kinoshita is in training camp with the Atlanta Falcons, hoping to be the first Japanese player to play in an NFL game. He earned his spot in camp with the Falcons after spending the last three seasons in NFL Europa. And after the league folded, Kinoshita had no chance but to take his game stateside.
"I want to be, ummm, how do you say it? A pioneer? Yes, I want to be a pioneer," Kinoshita said Wednesday, flashing an optimistic smile.Kinoshita's 5'10", 180ish pound frame won't intimidate any opposing defenders, but his biggest asset is his speed. As a return specialist for the Amsterdam Admirals Kinoshita led the league by averaging 19.2 yards per punt return with one touchdown. The season before he led the league in kickoff returns, averaging 29.9 yards per. In any language, this guy has speed.
The Falcons are trying to utilize Kinoshita's speed elsewhere as well:
The Falcons have yet to use Kinoshita on returns, preferring to let him focus on learning the complex routes of the passing game -- a process made even tougher by his difficulty communicating in English. He had 21 catches for 308 yards and two touchdowns this past season in Europe.And while his chances of making the final roster are slim, Kinoshita is sure to see some snaps in the pre-season, which starts on Friday against the Jets. Nonetheless he's serious about his attempt, and isn't playing around. "I want to make the team," he said, and we'll just have to see if he will.