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Poly Football Player of the Year picks

All but one, are Samoan

The names of the five finalists for the 2016 Polynesian Pro Football Player of the Year Award, presented by Hawaiian Airlines, have been announced and they are: OL Mike Iupati (Arizona Cardinals), DT Star Lotulelei (Carolina Panthers), QB Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans), DT Danny Shelton (Cleveland Browns) and OL Larry Warford (Detroit Lions).

The announcement was made by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame organization. All four finalists are of Samoan ancestry, with the exception of Star Lotulelei who is Tongan.

The Polynesian Pro Football Player of the Year Award recognizes individuals of Polynesian ancestry who are outstanding professional football players.

The inaugural recipient last year was Arizona Cardinals Offensive Lineman Mike Iupati, who is also one of the five finalists this year and the only one who was born in the territory.

“On behalf of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Board of Directors and Selection Committee, we congratulate each of the finalists on their terrific individual performances this season,” said Jesse Sapolu, Co-Founder and Chairman. “These players are great role models and an inspiration for our youth around the globe.”

According to “the finalists were chosen by a selection committee composed of past head football coaches Dick Tomey (Chairman), LaVell Edwards, Ron McBride and Dick Vermeil, ESPN SportsCenter anchor Neil Everett, NFL player personnel expert Gil Brandt, past NFLPA president Kevin Mawae (Polynesian Football HOF Inaugural Inductee) and Hawai’i sportscaster Robert Kekaula.”

“The winner of the 2016 Polynesian Pro Football Player of the Year Award will be announced on January 5th. The formal presentation of the Award will be held at the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Celebration Dinner (January 20, 2017) along with being recognized during the Inaugural Polynesian Bowl (January 21, 2017).”

Yesterday, social media was abuzz with congratulatory messages from families and friends of the players, both here and off island. The presence of Polynesians in the National Football League (NFL) continues to grow every year as scouts and coaches begin to take a more serious look at Polynesian players both here and around the country.

Of the finalists, Mike Iupati has been in the NFL the longest, with seven seasons under his belt. He was selected as an alternate to the 2017 Pro Bowl, along with fellow finalist, superstar quarterback Marcus Mariota who is in his second season with the Tennessee Titans.

Star Lotulelei is in his fourth season and was named Week 8 NFC Defensive Player of the Week. Also in his fourth season as an NFL player is Larry Warford of the Detroit Lions. Danny Shelton has started 15 games on the season as part of the Cleveland Browns.


“The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame honors Polynesia’s greatest players, coaches and contributors. It also serves as a resource for Polynesian football history, provides academic scholarships and supports educational programs for Polynesian youth. Its permanent home is located at the Polynesian Cultural Center (O’ahu’s North Shore) and was established in 2013 by Super Bowl Champions Jesse Sapolu and Ma’a Tanuvasa. Other board members include Troy Polamalu, Vai Sikahema, June Jones and Reno Mahe. For more information, visit”


“The Polynesian Bowl will feature the world’s elite high school players of Polynesian heritage and other ancestries. Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota (TEAM MARIOTA) and Baltimore Ravens OT Ronnie Stanley (TEAM STANLEY) will serve as team captains. Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Inductees Jack “The Throwin’ Samoan” Thompson and Olin Kreutz will serve as honorary head coaches. June Jones and Dick Tomey will serve as head coaches. For more information, visit”