Letter: Coach Fuj encouraged excellence in all pursuits

To the Editors:
In a town blessed with privilege, Coach Tom Fujitani was an old-fashioned lion who imparted the ultimate importance of meritocracy — that rewards come to those who work hard, demonstrate skill, and possess moral character.
On the field, Coach Fuj worked with a generation of young men to build connections between the sport of football and skills necessary to live a purposeful, meaningful life. His intensity for his players reflected the deep sense of responsibility for developing character and strength.
In the field house, Coach Fuj engaged with students from all stripes on the importance of fitness in mind, body and spirit. How many physical education teachers teach indoor fly-fishing? Coach Fuj did.
As a motivational speaker, one of his key addresses was a lament titled “Where Are the Leaders?” which extolled the virtues of balanced excellence in a variety of pursuits, while hinting at the dangers of a life lived without character.
There is a famous photograph of Coach Fuj — perhaps from the 1994 Homecoming game. Our Warriors are blowing out the opposing team, as shown in the scoreboard in the background. In the foreground, Coach Fuj stands howling displeasure at some on-field lapse from his players. The message of the image sums up the man — do your best and never give up. This is a simple message for complex times.
Coach, you made an indelible impression on my character. I channel your spirit and words whenever my students or myself fail to live up to life’s high expectations. Thank you for your mentorship.
Brian Pfeffer, Teacher
WHS Class of 1998
Los Angeles, April 5