Chaminade senior Kyouta Setoyama came to St. Louis with little knowledge of the area and no ability to speak or write English four years ago. But now, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound running back likes watching the Cardinals and Blues play. He loves Imo’s pizza and toasted ravioli – and he’s a bonafide football star.
“I could not speak English at all when I came here,” Setoyama said. “It is very difficult to learn and speak English. Writing is very hard for me. I have not mastered it yet. I still need to study.”
However, Setoyama is doing well enough to have earned a college football scholarship. In a recent Zoom meeting, he sealed the deal to attend Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri.
“When I made a decision, coach (Antoine) Torrey, my parents, coach Adam (Siwicki, of Culver-Stockton), my college counselor, my parents and the interpreter joined the Zoom meeting,” said Setoyama. He added that he had discussed his decision with his parents prior to the meeting.
His mother, Kazumi, and father, Takeshi, live in his hometown of Yokosuka, which is near Tokyo.
Torrey is more than happy for his athlete.
“Kyouta came to us from Japan and had great aspirations of being a student-athlete and playing college football in America,” Torrey said. “We are thrilled to see him have the opportunity to live out his dream and go play in Canton. We know Kyouta will have a lot to offer on and off the field, as he did here at Chaminade. Kyouta wanted an opportunity to play running back at the next level and he got it. He never concerned himself with what level.”
In the shortened season last fall, Setoyama gained 103 yards on 16 carries and scored a touchdown. He averaged 6.4 yards a carry.
“One of the Chaminade teachers, who take care of international students, took me to the football practice when I arrived at Chaminade,” Setoyama said.
He liked what he saw and decided to join the Red Devils.
“I started playing football when I was about 8 years old,” Setoyama said. “Football is not big in Japan right now.”
Torrey remembers what he thought when he learned Setoyama wanted to play in his program.
“My first impression of Kyouta was that he had great ball handling skills,” Torrey said. “He kept the ball very high and tight when going through running back drills. I knew he had a decent amount of training at the running back position. He was very shifty and really wanted to be great at football.”
Naturally, at first, language was a problem.
“I felt an obstacle at first because of language. I could not understand what my teammates said,” Setoyama said. He worked hard and overcame that barrier. “I believe my strength is that staying strong at my heart, and I do not get fazed by anything.”
He also tried out for the wrestling team and the rugby and basketball teams.
“Kyouta built many relationships on campus,” Torrey said.
However, his main highlight from his playing time came when he scored a touchdown on a 27-yard run in the Senior Night game against Parkway West. His parents were watching the game from Japan via the internet.
“When he got his turn on the field he did not disappoint,” Torrey said. “Kyouta ran the ball very well when needed. Two plays I will always remember from Kyouta will be his Senior Night touchdown on a great run. Also his first year with us, Kyouta put a jump cut on a kid from Illinois in the championship 7-on-7 game that had the whole team going crazy at Northwestern University. He earned playing time all three years and continued to grow not only as a player but as a young man.”
Setoyama is ready for his next challenge.
“The reason I decided to go to Culver-Stockton is that they gives me a chance to play football, and I think it will help me to make my dream come true,” Setoyama said. “I cannot wait to play football at college. I really appreciate my parents, teachers, football coaches and people who supported me. Chaminade helped me to have a great time and experience that will help my life.”
Torrey is glad to have played a part in helping Setoyama.
“We have a very successful international boarding program here at Chaminade. These young men make unparalleled sacrifices to travel so far from home to obtain a Blue Ribbon education and to compete at the highest levels in co-curricular activities,” Torrey said. “Kyouta fought through injuries early in his career, maneuvered through COVID-19 restrictions and travel bans to help us win our second consecutive district championship.
“Away from football Kyouta is a very serious student and works hard at his studies. He is a typical teen who wants to engage with his peers and continue to grow from his experiences. He and his family are extremely grateful for the opportunities to help him fulfill his dreams. We are so proud to be about of his journey and we have learned so much from him.”