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Nihon Univ. dirty tackler says head coach Uchida told him to 'crush' QB

Nihon University linebacker Taisuke Miyagawa attends a press conference in Tokyo on May 22, 2018, to explain his dirty tackle on a Kwansei Gakuin University quarterback in a May 6 game. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Nihon University American football club linebacker who tackled a Kwansei Gakuin University quarterback from behind has come forward to apologize and say his former head coach Masato Uchida ordered him to "crush" the QB before he carried out the dirty hit.

"No matter what I was ordered to do, I still decided to go through with the play on my own, so I must apologize and reflect on my actions," said Taisuke Miyagawa, 20, facing the media for the first time since the May 6 game that sparked the controversy, and led to the resignation of head coach Uchida on May 19.

The Kwansei quarterback was injured when Miyagawa hit him from behind after he had already released the ball and the play had finished. The Kwansei player had to withdraw from the game, and he was diagnosed with back injuries that would take about three weeks to heal.

Miyagawa's lawyer told the press conference in Tokyo that the player and his parents visited the Kwansei QB and his parents on May 18 and apologized directly. The lawyer added that the linebacker decided to come forward as a way to show his remorse to the victim and his family.

According to Miyagawa, who read out a prepared statement before answering reporters' questions, he was removed from practice three days before the game in question, and a day before a coach told him that Uchida had told him to let Miyagawa play in the game if he agreed to crush the Kwansei QB in his first play.

The coach also told the player, "The autumn season would be easy for us if their QB is injured."

Miyagawa said that he was in a make or break situation after these remarks from his superiors.

Shortly before the game, Miyagawa said he told the coach that he was going to "charge" into the opponent, and the coach told him that he had to go through with it. Miyagawa cried after he was sent off as he regretted his dirty play, but Uchida told him, "Tell people I let you do this."

Miyagawa told the press conference, "Making the truth clear is a step toward atonement," and bowed deeply. He said he was not able to say no to the instructions from the head coach because "I was weak and could not judge on my own," adding that he has no intention of continuing to play American football.

In response to Miyagawa's explanations, Kwansei Gakuin head coach Hideaki Toriuchi said he believes the Nichidai player told the truth, and he was shaken to the core because he felt what happened was "beyond American football or sport."

Yasutoshi Okudaira, the father of the victim, said he feel very angry as the Nichidai head coach intended to injure his son. "Something that never should have happened, happened," he said, adding that he now intends to file a criminal complaint over the case.

In its written statement dated May 15, Nichidai told Kwansei Gakuin that the university "does not order players to cause intentional harm to others." Nichidai plans to issue a more detailed explanation on May 24 about what happened.

Uchida offered an apology and his resignation on May 19, admitting that he is solely responsible for the dangerous play. He nevertheless has not explained in detail what happened.


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