By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Staff Writer
PALOS VERDES.–His coach called him “the type of kid you’d want your daughter to date,” but his mother didn’t think so when she saw his forearm.
“These are basically pacts and agreements I made with my fellow seniors. We started this a couple of years ago,” said Logan Okuda. The co-captain of Palos Verdes Peninsula High School’s football team displayed a series of deep, multilayered scars on his left arm, self-inflicted as part of a pact between himself and several of his Panthers teammates.
“It’s called a samurai mark. We all decided to do it as a show of friendship and brotherhood,” Okuda explained.
Okuda, 17, said the instruments he and his fellow devotees used to create the badges of courage were not some surgical-grade instruments, but usually whatever keys they had handy. He said his girlfriend, Jennifer, also did not approve.
“She thought it was pretty stupid, she called me an idiot,” he revealed.
Whatever the judgment on how he shows his solidarity on his skin, Okuda’s dedication to his team is unquestioned. The senior fullback and linebacker is known for quietly leading by example, hoping to help lead Peninsula past a shaky start to the season and into the top spot in the Bay League.
“He’s a softspoken leader. He leads by his actions. He’ll get in someone’s face when he needs to on the field, but most of the time, he leads by doing,” said Panthers head coach Adam Boyd. “He goes about his business the right way, he does everything the way he should be doing it on the field, and I think he’s the kind of guy others feed off of, and they try to emulate him.”
“I’m not one to yell or shout that much,” Okuda said about his leadership style. “I try to show my younger mates, by example, how to do things correctly. I try to be the one who provides the spark at the beginning of a game, to give the first big hit or make the first major block, so others get inspired and are motivated.”
True to his word, Okuda, listed at 5-foot-9 and a solid 205 pounds, took matters into his own hands last Friday to help Peninsula begin the turnaround of their season.
In their homecoming game against Leuzinger, Okuda hauled in 10-yard pass for a touchdown, rushed for 23 yards on five carries and assisted on six tackles. Peninsula won the game, 23-13, to even their league record at 1-1 and put themselves back in contention for the title after a 1-5 overall start to the season.
“The season’s not over, not by a long shot,” said coach Boyd. “It hasn’t gone the way we envisioned it, but such is life, and you wouldn’t know by watching Logan.”
Indeed, there is a lot of football left to be played, and Peninsula looks to improve their record this Friday, with a league matchup at Mira Costa.
Off the field, Okuda is no less focused. He described his parents, both natives of Japan, as being less strict than other Asian parents, but he gives them little reason to be. He is posting straight As semester after semester, and sports a formidable 4.3 weighted grade point average. He hopes to attend an Ivy League university after high school, which would obviously be a more welcome sight than his arm modifications to his mother, Mieko.
“She thought I had some emotional problems, but I told her it was just for football, and eventually, she understood” Okuda explained.
The Peninsula High School Panthers travel this Friday to Manhattan Beach for a Bay League contest against Mira Costa. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.