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Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Mission focuses on the “basics” with local players and coaches

HALL OF FAME DIRECTORS with students in the background

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Local high school football players and their coaches received intensive top notch instruction in a one-day football camp last Saturday facilitated by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame (PFHOF), the Hawaii-based non-profit organization established in 2013, to honor Polynesia’s greatest players, coaches and contributors.

Co-founded by two of the game’s legends with Samoan ancestry, Seiuli Jesse Sapolu and Ma’a Tanuvasa, it was coordinated in conjunction with the American Samoa High School Athletics Association (ASHSAA).

During a special dinner hosted by DOE/ ASHSAA last Friday evening at Cecilia’s Restaurant in Tafuna, PFHOF Chairman/ Founder Seiuli Jesse Sapolu told Samoa News that this is the ninth time they have held football camps in American Samoa over a sixteen year period, to teach the young generation of players on-island the basics of the game and help the coaches in different aspects of the game, which they can use to improve their players’ performance.

Co-founders of the Polynesian Football Hall Of Fame (PFHOF) Seiuli Jesse Sapolu (left) and Ma’a Tanuvasa. [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]

“But most importantly, to instill in the kids a sense of commitment to be the best they can be and hopefully they will secure college scholarships,” Seiuli stated. “I’ve been doing this since 1982 when I was a young college player because I realized the importance of football scholarships especially for promising players from low income families.”

The San Francisco 49ers four-time Super Bowl champion said that he gets a warm feeling of satisfaction with the fact that the PFHOF has indeed helped local students secure scholarships and some who participated in their camps over the years have returned having successfully completed their respective fields of study.

“Every time I see Pooch Ta’ase and Okland Salave’a now, it reminds me I’m getting old and grey because they were young guys when they attended our camps back then as students,” Seiuli revealed with a laugh. “Now, it gives me a good feeling knowing that what little assistance we gave them back then has helped shape them into the successful men they are. And now, they’re in leadership positions guiding and helping today’s young generation of players!”

PFHOF co-founder Ma’a Tanuvasa echoed his sentiments expressing his optimism in the talent of local players who are using technology like the internet and other social media outlets to keep abreast of the NFL and college football.

“A lot of them are traveling over to the mainland,” he pointed. “It’s also heartwarming to see the local coaches, a lot of whom attended college on football scholarships giving back to our local players.”

Tanuvasa who was born at LBJ Medical Center also revealed how good it feels to be back on island.

“I left with my family as a three year-old, which is why it’s always special to come back home,” said the former Broncos defensive end and two-time Super Bowl champion.

Also included in the PFHOF delegation is former Philadelphia Eagles running back Reno Mahe who is of Tongan ancestry.

“For me as a Tongan, I’m forever grateful to American Samoa because this is where my family migrated to, from Tonga for a better life and opportunities,” he revealed. “I am also forever indebted to the Galea’i family because they gave my father’s family a place to live in Nu’uuli when they first arrived from Tonga. My grandfather is buried there.”

Former Philadelphia Eagles running back Reno Mahe (left) and Galuega “Galu” Tagovailoa, the father of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]

Asked about his thoughts on Saturday’s one-day camp, he stated that with the limited time they had, he hoped that they could teach something about the game that applies not only to the game, but to life as a whole.

He recounted that when he was growing up, an NFL wide receiver named Kevin Dicen came to a football camp he attended and one thing he taught that stuck in his mind, was how to position one’s foot in the best way while in a stance, to give maximum speed at the moment of take off.

“It was the simplest thing he taught us,” he recounted. “I used it all through high school, college and all through the NFL! So my thought process while planning for the camp on Saturday is for us not to get caught up in big things, and focus on the basics of the game that we can impress upon these kids and hopefully the coaches can magnify it during their practice sessions every day. You see, there are little tricks within these basic principles, like in a stance, how you stand and where your weight shifts, which helps you play the game of football to your team’s advantage.

“There’s one question I always ask players especially quarterbacks. What is the first thing you look at when you are facing a defensive team? What’s your first read? And a really good quarterback will tell you, ’the safety tells you everything.’ So how the safety rotates, where the safety is on the field will dictate everything else on the field.”

Mahe expressed his pleasure to visit the islands and immerse himself in the culture and friendly smiles of the people, away from the hustle and bustle of life in the states.

“It’s such a rat race in the mainland and you get such a calm feeling when you come here, I just love it.”

The easygoing Tongan is one of the five-member PFHOF Board of Directors, the other four are co-founders Seiuli and Tanuvasa, former Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu and former NFL player/ coach June Jones.

Jones told Samoa News that they will be donating 20 Microsoft Pro laptops to ASHSAA to assist the local coaches, and T-shirts printed with the PFHOF logo sponsored by Adidas.

He pointed out that American Samoa is one of the most successful places per capita in all of the United States and its territories in the number of players that make it to the NFL, the latest being Penei Sewell who is an offensive tackle for the Detroit Lions.

Born in American Samoa, Penei (22) is the son of Gabriel and Arlene Sewell of Maleimi and has two other brothers in the NFL, Noah (21) who is a line backer for the Chicago Bears and Nephi (24), also a linebacker, for the New Orleans Saints.

Another famous name included in the visiting PFHOF delegation was Tagovailoa.

But it’s not the Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua. In fact it’s his dad Galuega “Galu” Tagovailoa who is a PFHOF contributor and quarterback coach.

Galuega “Galu” Tagovailoa, the father of Miami Dolphins quarter Tua Tagovailoa. [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]

“We are honored to have him with us this time round,” June acknowledged. “This is his first PFHOF mission and he’s quite the quarterback coach so he’s gonna give all the local kids the same magic he taught Tua and his other son Taulia who is the quarterback at the University of Maryland.”

In an interview with Galu Tagovailoa as he is known in the mainland, he expressed his heartfelt thanks for all the support and prayers from the local community for Tua especially during his concussion injury.

“The Lord has been good,” he stated. “Tua has recovered well and is ready for the next season.”

The camp on Saturday morning was well attended by more than 300 players and coaches from the local high schools.

 (l-r) Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Board of Director members Reno Mahe, Ma’a Tanuvasa and Seiuli Jesse Sapolu with some of the 20 Microsoft Pro laptops they donated to DOE/ ASHSAA at last Saturday’s one-day football camp. [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]

Leone High School principal Leo’o Dr. Patrick Danielson told Samoa News that it was a resounding success despite the limited time and both local players and coaches learned a lot of valuable techniques.

“Power and speed is the key to a strong team,” Leo’o stated. “We learned that we need to improve our speed.”

The PFHOF mission left the Territory on Saturday evening for Apia accompanied by the president of the local PFHOF chapter, Moana Purcell, where they will hold a similar camp with a special dinner to be hosted by Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.

After Samoa, the group will continue to New Zealand where they will hold another camp before returning to the States.

A group photo of the visiting Polynesian Football Hall Of Famers (PFHOF) and members of the Department of Education/ ASHSAA. [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]