Polynesian Football Hall of Fame inductees emphasize on how Polynesian culture, faith, and respect helped them through their football

Written by: 
Will Krueger

Polynesian football legends, current National Football League stars, and college football stars shared how their Polynesian culture had taught them humility, respect, and discipline at the annual Polynesian Football Hall of Fame ceremonies that took place at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Jan. 19.

Raymond Daniel Saleaumua, who spent 12 seasons in the NFL and received a Pro Bowl Selection in 1995, encouraged others in his acceptance speech, “I am where I am today because of how I was brought up. Discipline and respect … that’s Polynesian culture.”

President and CEO of the PCC Alfred Grace said, “More than one million people have come through and pass by [The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame]. The players honored in The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame show the values we all hold dear are still strong. Being Polynesian is a matter of sticking together.”

Jesse Sapolu, 4x Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers, and Chairman of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame echoed Grace’s comments about Polynesians by saying, “We’re about humility and respect.”

The day was filled with many jokes and laughter as the honorees were asked questions by the media and later gave their acceptance speeches in the enshrinement ceremony.

Tua Tagovailoa, current Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback and winner of The 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, won the 2018 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year. Tagovailoa, originally from Ewa Beach, Oahu, was asked what it meant to him to be a part of the ceremony honoring the Polynesian football legends and said, “I watched these guys growing up and played as them on video games.”

Saleaumua, one of the 2019 inductees, had everyone laughing with his response to Tagovailoa, “I played the same video games that Tua did.” Saleaumua is 34 years older than Tagovailoa.


Inductees Honor Family and Share Encouragements

There were also many heartwarming messages and tributes to family, faith, and culture. Words of encouragement and advice were shared throughout the day to the Polynesian community and aspiring Polynesian football players.

Tagovailoa encouraged young Polynesian football players to honor their parents and said, “God honors you when you honor your parents. Go to church first then work hard.”

Joe Salave’a, who spent 13 seasons in the NFL and is currently a coach at Oregon, spoke in his native tongue, Samoan, as he accepted his award into the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame. Salave’a spoke of his upbringing in American Samoa and how his family and faith helped him to succeed. He expressed, “Nothing was going to stand in the way of me and what God called me to be ... Faith sustained us.”

Mosiula Mea’alofa “Lofa” Tatupu, former Seattle Seahawks star who spent six seasons in Seattle garnering three Pro Bowl selections (2005-2007) in his tenure, paid homage to and honored his late father, former USC Trojan and New England Patriot, Mosi Tatupu, who is also in the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame. Tatupu paid his respects to his father as he emotionally accepted the award surrounded by his family.

Marques Tavita Tuiasosopo began his acceptance speech by acknowledging God. “The honor goes to Him. That’s where it starts and ends.” Tuiasosopo spent eight seasons in the NFL as Oakland Raiders and New York Jets quarterback, and was named Rose Bowl MVP as a college senior after defeating Drew Brees’ Purdue team in 2000.

Tuiasosopo also acknowledged his father, Super Bowl Champion Manu Tuiasosopo, who is also in the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame. Tuiasosopo said, “Set a goal for yourself, believe in yourself, and do everything possible to achieve that.”


The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Inductees

The 2019 inductees to the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame were Marques Tavita Tuiasosopo, Joe Fagaone Salave’a, Raymond Daniel Saleaumua and Mosiula Mea’alofa “Lofa” Tatupu.

Additionally current NFL Pittsburgh Steelers star Juju Smith-Schuster and Alabama Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa were honored at the event as 2018 professional and collegiate football Polynesian players of the year respectively.

Jesse Sapolu said “Polynesian football has exploded onto the scene.”

Vai Sikahema, the first ever Tongan to play in the NFL and received 2x Pro Bowl selections (1986, 1987), was the Master of Ceremonies for the event and said of the honorees, “These names are familiar to many in the Polynesian community and beyond.”

Player inductees

  • Joe Fagaone Salavea (Samoan ancestry)
    • A defensive tackle, Salavea played for the Houston Oilers, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins. Salavea is currently the defensive line coach and associate head coach for the University of Oregon.
  • Raymond Daniel Saleaumua (Samoan ancestry)
    • Drafted by the Detroit Lions as a defensive tackle, Saleaumua earned All-Pro (1990) and Pro Bowl (1995) honors. He also played for the Kansas City Chiefs, where he still holds the record for fumble recoveries, and for the Seattle Seahawks.
  • Mosiula Meaalofa “Lofa” Tatupu (Samoan ancestry)
    • A first team All-American selection with the University of Southern California, Tatupu played six seasons for the Seattle Seahawks where he was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2007, was named to three Pro Bowls, and was selected to the Seahawks 35th Anniversary Team. His father, the late Mosi Tatupu, was inducted in the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame class of 2015.
  • Marques Tavita Tuiasosopo (Samoan ancestry)
    • The Pac-12 Player of the Year as a quarterback for the University of Washington in 2000, Tuiasosopo was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2001 Rose Bowl. He played eight seasons in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders New York Jets. His father, Manu Tuiasosopo, was inducted in the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame class of 2018.

2018 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year

  • Tuanigamanuolepola “Tua” Tagovailoa (Samoan ancestry)
    • A graduate of Saint Louis School in Honolulu, Tagovailoa came off the bench as a freshman after the first half of the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship game to lead the Alabama Crimson Tide to a dramatic come-from-behind overtime victory against Georgia. This past season, Tagovailoa led Alabama to a 14-1 record while throwing for 43 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 records. Tagovailoa earned numerous national honors, being named a consensus All-American, the Sporting News Player of the Year, and winner of the Maxwell Award, and the Walter Camp Award.

2018 Polynesian Pro Football Player of the Year

  • JuJu Smith-Schuster (Samoan ancestry)
    • Smith-Schuster earned this award for the second straight year through his outstanding play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Only 22 years old, he has already established himself as one of the NFL’s top receivers. In 2018, Smith-Schuster caught 111 passes for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns, and had eight 100-year receiving games.

2018 Kupono Award of Excellence

  • John Christian Kaiminoeauloamekaikeokekumupaa “Kaimi” Fairbairn (Hawaiian ancestry)
    • A graduate of Punahou School in Honolulu, Fairbairn has played two seasons for the Houston Texans and led the NFL in field goals made (37) during the 2018 season. In week 15 of the season, he was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. An All-American with the UCLA Bruins, he was the school’s first player to score at least 100 points in all four seasons.
Date Published: 
Thursday, January 31, 2019
Last Edited: 
Thursday, January 31, 2019