Tides Changing For Pasifika Football Players
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – There has never been a better time to be a quarterback with Pacific Island heritage. The tides have been slowly changing for Pasifika/Polynesians in the football world and we are just starting to see the waves now.
We saw the first ripples in 2014 when Marcus Mariota won the Heisman trophy. He was the first-ever Samoan winner and was a massive inspiration to many aspiring Pasifika/Polynesian athletes including a very young Tua Tagovailoa.
Tua Leading The Way
Now it’s Tagovailoa making headlines as the high-profile Samoan quarterback after he had another impressive game this past Sunday, leading the Dolphins to a down-to-the-wire stunner over the Arizona Cardinals.
Although the runs for first-down and out-of-the-pocket completions were spectacular, for me, the most impressive decision Tua made was his pregame attire the week before.
Tua chose to dress in a white lava lava, an aqua aloha shirt, kukui nut lei and white slippers. He looked more like he was on his was to ekalesia than to crush the Rams. What a special, unique way to represent his culture knowing the world is watching. Island swagger and two wins in a row? Representation doesn’t get much better than that.
Stereotypes Of Pasifika Football Players Are Changing
The 2019 draft class showcased the most Polynesian people drafted (11 players) with four (Bradlee Anae, Julian Blackmon, Leki Fotu and John Penisini) coming from the University of Utah and even more athletes signed as undrafted free agents. The Utah boys are all fantastic athletes and positive role models that my son could, absolutely, look up to.
However, what the world has come to expect as prototypical Pasifika NFL players are huge linemen like Jesse Sapolu or hard-hitting defensive icons like Junior Seau or Troy Polamalu. The Polynesian quarterback, on the other hand, used to be as rare as a blue pearl. I am happy to report that is changing. There have only ever been three other Polynesians to start an NFL game at quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa is the latest.
At the collegiate level you can find starting Polynesian quarterbacks all across the nation. DJ Uiagalelei lead the Clemson Tigers in a slugfest with Notre Dame. Tua’s brother, Taulia threw three touchdowns as Maryland smashed Penn State. Washington State started freshman QB Jayden De Laura who threw for three touchdowns.
Zach Wilson leads the now #8 BYU Cougars to a 8-0 record after dismantling Boise State on the blue turf.
Utah High School Football As An Example
The greatest evidence of change can be found at the high school level. We are deep into the high school football playoffs and out of all the high schools that are still in the hunt, three of them have Polynesian quarterbacks.
Liu Aumavae and the Timpview Thunderbirds will play Salem Hills in the 5A semifinals. Micah Fe’a and the Orem Tigers are also moving on to the 5A semifinals facing Maple Mountain. In 6A, the Lone Peak knights led by senior Jonah Heimuli will face off with Skyridge in the semifinals.
‘Io, the tides are changing for Polynesian players and I can’t remember a better time to be a quarterback.
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