COMMENDING CBS 60 MINUTES SPECIAL FEATURE, "AMERICAN SAMOA--FOOTBALL ISLAND"
OF AMERICAN SAMOA
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Thursday, January 21, 2010
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from American Samoa (Mr. Faleomavaega) is recognized for 5 minutes.
(Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to share with you and our colleagues and to commend the CBS 60 Minutes program that was aired last week on Sunday, January 17 of this year.
As it was narrated by CBS reporter Scott Pelley, the television program was called, American Samoa--Football Island. It highlighted the fact that from an island of less than 70,000 people, there are more than 30 players of Samoan ancestry currently playing professional football in the National Football League and estimated more than 200 playing currently in Division I college football.
Indeed, it is estimated that a boy born to Samoan parents is 56 times more likely to get into the NFL than any other kid in the United States, period. This is an exceptional bit of information considering that the six little high schools that we have there in the program do not have locker rooms, no weight rooms for training, no proper equipment or other needed facilities and resources. This is also considering that most of these athletes do not start playing organized football until they're in high school.
For the first time this year, we have organized a Pop Warner football program. What is interesting about this, Mr. Speaker, is that a good number of these young Pop Warner players would be disqualified if they were playing in the U.S. for the simple reason that they were too big. I know this is true in the State of Hawaii where, in the Pop Warner program, many of these young Samoan football players had to organize their own "Big Boys" football program because they would be disqualified to play Pop Warner. I know this is true in the little town of Hauula in Laie in the State of Hawaii.
Now, I don't want to give the impression to my colleagues that Samoans are a lot of muscle and brawn but no brains; no, this is not true. I know from my own given experience when I played high school football in my alma mater, Kahuku High School in Hawaii, it was like a tradition that all Samoans would play the line, the quarterback would be the Japanese, the Filipinos would be the halfbacks, but the fullback would be a Samoan. Now all that has changed, we also play quarterback these days.
In American Samoa, there were no youth or development programs until this year when they started the American Youth Football Samoa program, but still coaches and recruiters crowd our little territory for raw talent. Mr. Speaker, it was important for the whole world to see some of the challenges that the kids of American Samoa have to go through to make it to the collegiate level so that they can afford an education and for most to play in the highest level of professional football.
The fact that a Samoan boy is 56 times more likely to get into the NFL is most interesting and can be attributed not only to the size of the people but to the values of the Samoan culture. From respect to discipline and making sure that there is respect in the process, one can appreciate that the young men and women of Samoan descent hold true these values of humility. I know that these athletes with these values would be welcomed by any coach in any sport.
I want to take this opportunity to recognize the Polynesian players who were fortunate enough to make it into this year's NFL Conference Championships and will be playing in New Orleans this weekend. They are Aaron Francisco of the Indianapolis Colts; Fili Moala, the Indianapolis Colts; Ropati Pitoitua, the New York Jets; Sione Pouha of the New York Jets; Naufahu Tahi of the Minnesota Vikings. I want to personally congratulate them and their families for their success.
Also, I want to offer special recognition for our first Samoan Polynesian of Tongan ancestry, Mr. Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens, who is not only headed to his first Pro Bowl in Florida after the Super Bowl, but today is also his 26th birthday. Haloti Ngata is in his fourth year in the NFL, was drafted by the Ravens in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft, and is a graduate of the University of Oregon. At 6 feet, 5 inches and almost 350 pounds, Haloti finished the year with more than 30 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
The success of this new generation of football players, Mr. Speaker, is a result of the pathway paved by pioneers like Samoan football player Al Lolotai, who played for the Washington Redskins in 1945, Charlie Ane of the Detroit Lions, Jack "The Throwin' Samoan" Thompson, Manu and his son Marques Tuiasosopo, Dan Saleaumua, Wilson Faumuina, Frank and his son Brandon Manumaleuna, Jesse Sapolu, Junior Seau, Troy Polamalu, Lofa Tatupu, Domata Peko, Rey Maualuga, Jonathan Fanene, Joe Salave`a, Pita Elisara, Esera Tuaolo, Falaniko and his brother Al Noga, Junior Ah You, and many others.
I am often asked why Samoan men have so much success on the football field. Well, there are many factors. I am reminded of the late Coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers when he said that "Football is like life. It requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and respect for authority." This is very much part of the heart and soul of the Samoan culture which centers on the importance of families sharing each other's needs and respect for others.