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.”
2018 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year
2018 Polynesian Pro Football Player of the Year
2018 Kupono Award of Excellence