Playing Football In Paradise

Anyone that watches football regularly has noticed the influx of football players from American Samoa over the last twenty years. Just where is this island and why are they producing so many outstanding football players? American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States.  It is located in the South Pacific and home to about 65,000 people. The total land mass of the island is just slight larger than the District of Columbia.

There are now around 30 Samoans playing in the NFL with more than 200 college players in NCAA Division I football. Off the field most American Samoan players are soft-spoken and gentle. But once the pads are on they are looking for the big action and producing the big hits during the game. They are viewed as the warriors of the football field.

The most famous of the NFL players is arguably Troy Polamalu, who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. You can see Polamalu in the upcoming Super Bowl and as the current star of Head and Shoulders commercials.  Here is a link to his latest commercial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaJFnGGECJo. Although, he was raised on the mainland he embraces and promotes his American Samoan heritage.

American Samoa may look like paradise, but the people who live there are usually poor. Football is viewed as a meal ticket for them and their families. Playing this game can give them a way out of poverty and change the future for them and their families. Most of these football players just started playing the sport in high school. So it is remarkable that so many go on to play college and professional ball. The island only started a youth football program in 2010 with the help many of the current and former NFL players. With expansion of the sport among the youth we can expect to see even great achievements from American Samoan players.

There are still many struggles for the young men of the island that play football. They are saddled with broken down equipment and facilities. The funding they receive is next to nothing. Most of their football practice fields are on top of lava rock and most players wear tennis shoes, not cleats, while playing. The players that have made it through to college and the NFL have done it with sheer determination.  This never give up trait they all share can be traced back to the culture in which they where raised.

The children of American Samoan decent are physically big and the island’s culture makes them tough. They often do a days work even before school has started. The children are taught discipline and obedience by their elders. They are expected to do the right thing and work hard. Also, the native dancing they do that has been past down threw the years makes them agile and graceful. So when they learn the game of football it comes to them like second nature.

The next football game you watch, take note of the American Samoan players, they are easily spotted by their last names and their ability to play the game. Realize that the fact they are even playing football at the college or professional  level is very extraordinary. If you like to learn more about American Samoa you can check out their website at http://americansamoa.gov/.

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