Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Rocket: Ray Kousaka-Tedder Counting Stars For Leafa

Reina Kousaka, the mother of Leafa Spirit tight end Ray Kousaka-Tedder.

The Rocket: Ray Kousaka-Tedder Counting Stars For Leafa

By Carol Craftman
The Spirit News
August 1, 2076

This year, the Leafa College Spirit Gridiron Team have looked to walk-ons to be the key components in what will be a challenging BCS title defense. One of 10 walk-ons selected to earn a scholarship, tight end Ray Kousaka-Tedder, the son of Reina Kousaka and the great-grandson of legendary OneRepublic singer/songwriter/author Ryan Tedder, was the unlikeliest of candidates to get the nod and play for the Leafa Boys. Thanks to an impressive tryout, he was able to take part in the special first-year training camp to get into fitness and form ahead of the traditional season-opening road match against the UCLA Bruins at the historic Rose Bowl Stadium.

"Yeah, I wasn't the unlikeliest of people to end up here but I thought, maybe I'll try a new sport because I've been used to watching AFL games on the telly and at the G," said Ray, known to his peers as Rocket, a play on his initials, R.K.T. "Mum told me that her good friend from secondary school, Dr. Kumiko [Oumae] a.k.a. Kumi-sensei, was the band director there along with her husband Mr. Shu[ichi Tsukamoto] a.k.a. Shu-san. She told me, 'how about you enrol over there and get away from Melbourne for a few years and see where it leads you. Can't be here forever, y'know.' That's what she told me.

Ryan Tedder, the great-grandfather of Ray Kousaka-Tedder.

"January comes, and I enrol at the campus. I see this ad saying, 'Want to play for a champion? Tryouts for Leafa College Gridiron 2076 are coming in June. Inquire within.' Months pass, and I was close to following the lead of my mum and becoming a trumpeter for the Spirit Band. At the last second, I head to the tryout at Pleiades to see if anything is going on. There were so many people, and only a few spots were available. I tried out for the tight end position because I found out that they only had one person at that position coming back, he was a fourthie (fourth-year) and he used to play fullback.

"I ran some patterns, caught some passes, did some blocks and it amazed the coaches. I had only learned about the technique by watching some old NFL footage so I really had no idea what to expect. One week later, Coach Harding calls me up to his office at Houraisan to tell me something. I ask him, 'What happened, Coach? Did I fail to make the cut?'

"He looks at me in the eye as says, 'Young man, you're on the team. You'll be on full-ride starting now. Congratulations. Camp's next month. Get ready. Good work at the tryout.' I didn't know what to say, but later that night, I call my mom and she says, 'Hey Mum, I did it! I'm on the Spirit griddies for next year!' She was crying. She was so thrilled, then she said. 'I'll try to head over there to watch you play. Do you best, all right Ray?' I said, 'I got your back Mum. I'm gonna make Kumi-sensei proud, too!'

"And that's how it all started. I'm now a schollie, no longer a trialist, and I get to travel to America for a number of weeks. It's going to be tough work, but, like my great-granddad Ryan once said, 'No more counting dollars. We'll be counting stars.'"