Scott Fujita was born in Ventura, California on April 28, 1979. He was a three-sport standout in football, basketball and track & field at Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard, CA before heading to the University of California, Berkeley. As a student at Berkeley, Fujita earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, graduating in 2001 with Honors. He also completed a minor program in Business Administration. In his final year at Berkeley, Fujita earned a Master’s degree in Education.
Fujita was drafted in the 5th round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He played 3 seasons with the Chiefs under Head Coach Dick Vermeil, and led the team in tackles in 2003 and 2004. Fujita was traded to the Dallas Cowboys before the start of the 2005 season, where he was coached by Bill Parcells.
In Fujita’s first season with the Saints, he was selected as the defensive team captain by his teammates and held that title for three years. He also led the team in tackles in 2006 and 2007. In 2009 Fujita was named the Saints’ “Man of the Year” for his contributions on the field and in the community.
During Fujita’s four seasons in New Orleans, the Saints won two NFC South Division championships, appeared in two NFC Championship games, and won Super Bowl XLIV against the Indianapolis Colts.
Off the playing field, Fujita dedicates a lot of time to his community, as well as a number of charities. He is passionate about the environment, namely the protection and restoration of the Gulf South. He also advocates for equal rights for the LGBT community, promotes programs for adoption, and is an avid proponent for breast cancer awareness, as his mother is a two-time breast cancer survivor. Throughout his career, Fujita has also worked with organizations that work to support, encourage and enrich the lives of children afflicted with cancer and other challenges.
Fujita has served on the NFLPA Executive Committee as a Vice President since 2010. He also sits on the Board of Directors for Team Gleason, which seeks to improve the lives of patients living with ALS and ultimately find solutions to stop this terrible disease.
He is married to Jaclyn and has three daughters, twins Isabell and Delilah, and Marlowe.
Art Eddy: You helped produce the documentary called Gleason that showcases your former Saints teammate Steve Gleason who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. What were some of the stories you made sure that got into this documentary?
Scott Fujita: I think just the origin of this story. It just started as a heartfelt intention of one man sharing himself with his unborn child. Steve started feeling symptoms of ALS in the fall and winter of 2010. Not knowing what it was at that point, but having that prophetic premonition to turn the camera on himself was the thought of this being something big.
Then you fast forward a couple of months of January 2011 he gets a formal diagnosis. About six weeks later his wife finds out that she is pregnant with their first child. So it strikes him that this is what it is about and this is what he is supposed to be doing. I am supposed to be sharing myself with my unborn child. That is really where the whole thing started without any thought of it being a feature length film. A couple years after that he has over a thousand hours of breathtaking footage as intimate personal video journals for his child. Then getting carried up Machu Picchu and Steve then celebrating his one year anniversary of getting diagnosed with ALS by jumping out of an airplane.
There was some really awesome and powerful stuff. The family thought that this might have an impact on people and wanted to do something with it. I had just finished playing ball and Steve’s wife Michel’s best friend Kimi Culp worked for Oprah and Diane Sawyer for years and had a deep background in broadcast journalism, asked me and couple friends to take this footage and do something with it.
We formed a production company and interviewed a bunch of directors. We landed on the extremely talented Clay Tweel. He got it. The story clicked. He understood the power of it. He definitely wanted to tell it. So that is really where it started. I have to say that I am the least qualified person to work on a film like this, but it is really just a labor of love for everybody involved. We all got behind the story and wanted to support Steve and his wife Michel. It is just rooted in the most heartfelt of intentions.
AE: The trailer alone got me very emotional. As a father I feel for Steve. There are things that he is doing now to make sure he tells his child. You are a father too. Did the journey of making this documentary change on how you look at your own life as a father?
SF: Absolutely. I think one of the things that I am most proud of through this whole experience is Steve and having the discipline and fortitude. I think just having the sense of doing what he did for his son and so many other things that he has done through this experience. Little things like on video like teaching your son how to skip a rock. How to shave. How to ask a girl out. All of the things that the rest of us parents take for granted because we don’t live like we have a timeline. Well Steve does.
So I think the message from him is how to be more present and not take those moments for granted. I love the guy as a friend. We have a lot of history, but I am so proud of him as a father. I know that without question it is making me become a better dad. Some of the messages that we have heard from people and what resonates from people who have seen it is things like I lost touch with my son in the past few years. I am going to pick up the phone and give him a call. Or a parent that might say after dinner I am going to put my computer or phone down and spend more time with my kids. Those are all the things that I think are striking a chord with the viewers. From a parenting stand point it is very authentic. It is connecting so strongly with parents who have seen it.
AE: Every time I see that play that Steve made against the Falcons where he blocks the punt it gives me chills. I knew that play will forever live with the Saints, the fans, and the city of New Orleans. You were on his team when that play happened. What will you always take away from that play?
SF: It was one of those rare moment in sports. I think we are all guilty of overstating the importance of sports, but that was one of those moments that was much bigger than just football. So to have that front row seat right there on the sideline and see that thing unfold in front of me and feel the energy and electricity in the building and just that sense that it signaled the rebirth of really the whole Gulf Region. It is such an iconic moment I think in New Orleans Saints history now that was so much bigger than football.
AE: As a fan of the NFL I knew that many teammates and organizations looked at you and praised you for your leadership skills. Do take more pride in that over all the accolades you achieved in the NFL?
SF: Yeah, I think so. It is not one of those things that I overthink. I think I have been fortunate and been in some good positions and great locker rooms. It is funny because I was on the phone with some friends from Kansas City earlier today and we talked about my first three years in the league playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. I was just so fortunate to come into an environment like that with such great football fans and a head coach like Dick Vermeil. He fosters a really strong family culture. I had great veteran leaders who taught me how to be a great man.
I think it is about putting one foot in front of the other. Try to grow as a man and as a person. I was very fortunate to be around great people. Same thing in Dallas. Same thing in New Orleans. Same thing up in Cleveland. Now in my post career life I am sorting things out. In a project like this where I am with really good people it makes things that much easier on me. It puts me in a position where I look good most of the time.
AE: Switching to fatherhood now, what were some of the first few thoughts that popped into your mind when you found out that you were going to be a dad?
SF: Well it was something that I always wanted to do. I always thought that I would be a dad to multiple children. I now have three daughters. My wife became pregnant with twins right out of the gate. That is one of those whether you think you know what you are doing or not you better figure it out real fast.
I always say no matter how many parenting books you have read nothing prepares you for when those kids are dropped into your arms. (Both laugh.) So here we are with two newborn twins looking at each other like okay now what? You just hunker down and get it done. There are really no words that you can describe on what it means to be a parent and what the feeling is like until you actually experience it and feel it. There is no better calling in the world.
AE: What are some of the core values you look to instill in your kids as they grow up?
SF: One of my favorite quotes and I saw this in a movie years and years ago is that principles only mean something if you stick by them when they’re inconvenient. It is trying to raise confident, strong girls who have principle and they are willing to stand up for that principle. Whatever that principle maybe. I don’t want to guide them so strictly and tell them what they should and shouldn’t believe. I want them to have that sense of backbone and deep principles and be willing to stand up for it.
SF: For me I always go to scheduling. Everyone has their own parenting philosophies, but for us with twins right out the gate everything had to be about scheduling. I became such a believer in it where when our third daughter was born we were so groomed and geared toward our twins being on such a strict schedule that we applied it to our other daughter.
For me that was the best way for us to keep our sanity was to have them on a tight schedule. I do firmly believe that kids thrive on that. The downside of that is that maybe your kids are not as flexible on those nights where we are out later or on the road traveling. It is kind of a crazy balancing act. I feel like our kids are the ones when you are out late night with friends where they are melting down when 8:15 pm rolls around. The other kids who stay up later are able to go the distance. We are the parents that don’t look so hot.
Life of Dad Quick Five
AE: What is your favorite family movie you guys like to watch together?
SF: It is always changing, but right now my girls are really into the movie Little Giants. It is a movie that I loved years and years ago. I popped it on about a week ago. In fact the whole Gleason family was staying with us in California. So we flipped on Little Giants one day and thought that they kids would enjoy it. They just loved it. They have watched it about five times since.
AE: Do you guys have a favorite song that you all like to sing and dance to as a family?
SF: (Laughs.) You are putting me on the spot. It pains me to admit that Justin Bieber’s song Baby is at the top of our morning’s commute playlist on the way to school. I know all the words, but no I will not be singing it for you.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
SF: It depends on who you ask and their definition of perfect. I am a busy body guy and like to see and do everything. My wife likes to have total peace and quiet and be able to just unplug and unwind. When we can strike the best balance of the two that is probably the perfect family vacation.
AE: What was the first thing you did when the confetti was falling down on you and your Saints teammates after winning the Super Bowl?
SF: When the game ended the first thing that I was doing was looking for my wife and my daughters. It was kind of a stampede of friends and family running onto the field. I remember just running around trying to find my wife and kids. So to have that moment with the confetti falling from the sky and seeing my daughters catching that confetti and picking it up off the ground was a really special moment.
AE: For a fan of the NFL that has never been to a game, what is the one stadium you would recommend to them?
SF: There are a lot of good ones, but my favorite place to play has always been Green Bay. Obviously it is a special place with a ton of history. They have special fans. There is something about driving up to the stadium and going through the neighborhoods. Everyone is out in their front yard having barbeques. When the game is over win, lose, or draw the fans are always supportive. They are thanking you for playing which was always crazy to me. You walk off the field and we won some big games there and they are cheering for us. They are saying great job and are thanking us for coming out. It is special thing. It is pretty rare. You are not getting that in Philly or Oakland. (Both laugh.)