Japan's Toshi Sato getting a kick out of life in the CFL
Calgary Stampeders kicker/punter Toshi Sato grew up wanting to be a professional soccer player in his home country of Japan.
But when he realized he wasn't good enough, Sato turned to a sport that wasn't very big in his country -- he decided he wanted to take a crack at football.
"I wanted to start something new and my high school had a good football team. So I joined there to be a national champion," Sato said.
Even though football isn't a big sport in Japan, Sato fell in love with the game as soon as he put the pads on.
He started out playing quarterback but says he then had to switch to kicking.
SWITCHED TO KICKING
"First, I broke my knee and after that, I broke my shoulder," Sato said.
"The doctor told me, 'You cannot come back to the field during your high school career,' so I started kicking because I used to play soccer."
Sato made an impression right off the bat.
He says in his first game, he kicked a 52-yard field goal.
DRAFTED BY ARGOS
In 2021, Sato was selected by the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL global draft.
He ended up getting into one game in 2021 as the Argos' kicker.
This off-season, he signed with the Stampeders.
Sato is here as a punter and kicker and is playing behind two of the league's best in Cody Grace and Rene Paredes.
Paredes says he's there to help if Sato asks.
"You know, if they ask questions, I help out," Paredes said.
"He's been in the CFL for a couple of years, so he knows how the league works. He hasn't asked much about that but he does ask how we work around here and how we do it.
"I think he's had a great camp and is a great kicker."
GOOD CAMP SO FAR
Head coach and GM Dave Dickenson says he likes the fact Sato is both a kicker and a punter.
He says that may work in Sato's favour when it comes to earning a job.
"Yeah, I think he's made an impression. I mean, even in our red-and-white game, he made a 55-yarder," Dickenson said.
"He's pushing but obviously, he knows Rene is going to be our guy. But I’d like to think I can keep another kicker here and a guy that can kick and punt has value."
Sato's goal is to make the Stampeders but beyond that, the 29-year-old says he wants to one day play south of the border.
"My goal is the NFL but right now, I'm focused on the CFL," he said.
"I'm really focused on the Stampeders and I want to be a starter here. That's my goal now."
Sato is the first player from Japan to sign with the Stampeders.
He holds the record for the longest field goal in Japan.
Sato says he split the uprights from 58 yards out.
Sato and the Stampeders close out the pre-season on Thursday night when they travel to Vancouver to play the Lions.