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TUFF gifts brand new full sets of uniforms via efforts of Shaun Nua

Adam Shible and Jess Speight

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — After being gifted with 20 Microsoft Pro laptops and intensive instruction in a one-day football camp coordinated by the Polynesian Football Hall Fame (PFHOF) in conjunction with the Department of Education/ ASHSAA last week, local high school football teams will be gifted again today with brand new full sets of uniforms and accessories, thanks to the efforts of another son of American Samoa, Shaun Nua.

The former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end with help from other donors, has brought this kind donation to life through TUFF, an acronym which stands for “The Uniform Funding Foundation”. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit’s mission is “to provide uniforms, equipment and mentorship to underserved youth athletes.”

In an exclusive interview, TUFF Founder and CEO, Adam Shibley, a former linebacker for both the University of Michigan and University of Notre Dame, revealed that after being inspired by some of his former teammates’ philanthropic efforts, he began contemplating how to make a change in the world.

“I started the foundation in 2018 when I was playing college football for the Wolverines,” he recounted. “I was  searching for something more to do with the platform I had as a Division One student-athlete, and ended up deciding to use it to help make a difference for others.

“After extensive prayer and thought, I remembered a time in high school when I was driving through the city and youth football players approached me to fundraise money for their upcoming football season. I was truly moved by this experience, and it ultimately led to the creation of TUFF.”

According to the non-profit organization’s website, as pay-to-play fees rise, many young children struggle financially to participate in athletics; more so, highly impoverished areas are increasingly unable to sustain youth teams, unfairly hindering them from the vast array of benefits gained from sports.

Additionally, that hinderance extends to a lack of mentorship in sports and academics for many of these children.

Shibley pointed out that recognizing the detrimental impact that participation costs have on creating equal opportunities for student athletes, TUFF helps to alleviate the financial burden placed on individuals from low-income communities through their uniform/equipment donations, while mandating that each program lower their pay-to-play fee.

“We want this to be a very impactful donation for the entire island of American Samoa, but specifically the student-athletes who will be receiving the new uniforms,” Shibley stated. “The local high schools will be able to use these uniforms for the next ten years. They are extremely high quality uniforms and should last no matter what surface the teams will be playing on.

“Our uniform donations lower barriers of entry for athletes in the communities receiving them. The recipient teams and schools are able to reallocate a portion of their funds to purchase other important necessities.”

TUFF COO and President, Jess Speight, who is also on-island explained that they offer high-school scholarships, college tours, produce short documentaries, and release advice-specific interviews with a lot of the university and professional players they work with.

Speight acknowledged that their visit to the Territory has eventuated due to the efforts of Shaun Nua to give back to the community where he grew up.

“There are a couple of other donors but he largely funded this project,” he said.“We are shooting a documentary highlighting Shaun’s donation, his upbringing, and the beauty of American Samoa including Manu’a where his roots are,” Speight stated.

The documentary will be six minutes long and will be all over social media in about a month’s time.

The two TUFF officials acknowledged Nua’s help in developing their defensive skills when they had him as a coach at the University of Michigan.

“We weren’t just players or jersey numbers, we were treated like family,” Speight revealed. “We want to honor Coach as best as we can through his donation and our documentary.

“Three years ago when I was still playing football, we would kick back with Coach Nua and brainstorm different ways we could help him give back to his home island,” Speight recalled. “It’s been years in the making, but we’ve finally been able to make it to American Samoa. I’m very excited about tomorrow.”

The Shaun Nua Project as their trip is called is the second time TUFF has ventured into the Pacific carrying out its organizational mission.

The first one was when they donated uniforms and equipment to two youth athlete programs in Oahu, the Westside Titans and the Wahiawa Strong in conjunction with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Marcus Mariota’s Motiv8 Foundation.

Other players with Samoan ancestry who have been helping with their missions are Green Bay Packers’ Chuck Filiaga, New York Jets’ Chris Glaser, NFL Free Agent Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, and up-and-coming college football player Notre Dame’s Marist Liufau.

The TUFF executives acknowledged with thanks the support of Shaun Nua and his wife Hilary who funded a large part of the project, and also Jon and Lisa Zirin, Island Cargo Support, Pacific Island Foundation, Seiuli Jesse Sapolu, Keiki Misipeka, Marcus Mariota and his Motiv8 Foundation.

They also acknowledged the assistance of the American Samoa Government through DOE/ASHSAA for getting their cargo on-island duty free. Shaun Nua who started his coaching career with the US Naval Academy, then moved to the University of Michigan is now the defensive line coach for the USC Trojans.

He will officially hand over the donation to DOE/ ASHSAA officials at 9 o'clock this morning at the Veterans’ Memorial Stadium.