Boise State senior Holden Huff spent two weeks over the offseason sampling life in Japan.
He has held an appreciation for the Japanese culture since he was a kid and has dreamed of living there after college.
His trip included a one-week visit to Hosei University, Boise State’s sister school and home of the football program that sends coaches to Boise every year to study the Broncos. Hosei has a blue field because of the connection.
Huff also spent a week with a Japanese friend who was an exchange student at Boise State.
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“I just found a new drive to study the language and found that I really enjoy the place and the people,” Huff said.
Huff had been studying for an eventual trip to Japan for more than a year and a half. He will take his third Japanese class at Boise State this fall. But he quickly learned he has a long way to go to feel comfortable there. He worked with some youth football players during his visit.
“As you can probably imagine, (the language) is pretty difficult,” Huff said, “and I thought I was doing pretty good when I went there. Nothing was more humbling than (when) I did some community service with some kids and they were 5 or 6 years old, and they speak 10 to 20 times better than I do. I couldn’t understand anything they were saying.”
Tetsuya Ehara, a lecturer of Japanese at Boise State who helped Huff coordinate his visit, said Japanese writing is the biggest challenge for Americans.
“It’s completely new to them,” he said. “(Huff) can talk a little bit and he can write short sentences in Japanese. It’s not advanced yet, but he has started.”
Ehara connected Huff with the Hosei coaches when they were in town in the spring. Huff is the first Boise State student-athlete Ehara has worked with who wanted to visit the country.
Ehara hopes other Broncos will want to go to Japan in the future and expand the schools’ relationship.
“That would be wonderful,” Ehara said. “Holden did a good job to reach out and bridge it.”
Part of the allure of Japan for Huff is the culture’s emphasis on respect, he said.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always enjoyed everything that’s come from Japan,” he said.
After football, Huff plans to go back to school and study a computer science field. He should graduate with a communications degree in December.
He has considered going to Japan to play football and work next year.
He prepared for his senior season in part by working out with the Hosei team while he was in Japan.
“They showed me around and treated me better than I’ve ever been treated,” Huff said. “It was like I was a celebrity over there.”
He might be better known by next year if he can end his career with the type of season that seemed likely when he excelled late in his freshman season in 2012. Huff made 17 catches for 250 yards and four touchdowns that year with a 14.7-yard average.
He has 16 catches for 160 yards since while dealing with a recurring shoulder injury. He missed spring ball this year, too.
“My freshman year, I was extremely healthy,” Huff said. “The past two have been kind of a struggle. I’m feeling great now. This will be a big fall camp.”