But Polynesians’ emphasis family bonds didn’t make signing easy as one might think
Family is vitally important to the Polynesian people, which made the recruiting of Arizona defensive tackle Conan Amituanai a little difficult.
The 6-foot-4, 280-pound true freshman from Poly High School in Long Beach, Calif., signed with the Wildcats in February after being recruited by defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo, his uncle.
“It was especially hard for me because Conan’s mom is my sister,” Tuiasosopo said. “It was hard to separate from personal and business. He didn’t know which uncle he was getting from day to day. He didn’t know if he was getting the uncle the coach or the uncle the uncle.”
But even with Washington, Oregon, UCLA and California getting involved in the recruiting, it was Arizona, and family, that eventually won a player who joins six others on the Wildcats’ roster with a Polynesian background.
“He wanted to be his own person, and I wanted to give him space,” Tuiasosopo said. “But with each day, whenever I heard he was leaning to this school or that, I took it personal. I think it eventually came down to family. He knew he had an uncle here to watch over him, to push him and challenge him the best he could. I am very happy he is here. He is a explosive, big athlete.”
That family bond is common among most Polynesian players, regardless of where they live.
With family, their passion for fun and religion, there is plenty driving Amituanai and the rest of the Polynesian players who play college football.
“Throughout my whole life, not only was the language taught to me, but respect is a big part of my culture,” the freshman said. “Whatever you do, you have to be passionate about it. We are passionate, whether it be dancing or singing, and now we have a lot of Polynesians playing football.”
Driving Amituanai to be better are not only his own standards and his family’s, but earlier generations as well.
Some of the big-name Polynesian players who have made lengthy careers for themselves in the NFL are Junior Seau, Luther Elliss, David Dixon, Marques Tuiasosopo and former Wildcats Joe Salave’a and Edwin Mulitalo.
UA’S POLYNESIAN INVASION
Pos. /Player /From
DT Stanley Mataele Oahu, Hawaii
OT Nick Finneangonofo Honolulu
QB George Malauulu Carson, Calif
OG Pulu Poumele Oceanside, Calif.
OT Mu Tagoai Honolulu
DB McCann Utu Long Beach, Samoa
RB Jerry Papalii Honolulu
DL Leighton Milton L.A. (Hawaii native)
DL Joe Salave’a Oceanside (Samoa)
OL Ian Murton Peoria
LB Halafihi Vuna Oakland, Calif.
DT Van Tuinei Westminster, Calif.
OG Ega Usu Lawndale, Calif.
OL Tevete Usu Lawndale, Calif.
OL Makai Freitas Honolulu
DL Steve Tafua Garden Grove, Calif.
C Steven Grace Honolulu
WR Malosi Leonard Palmdale, Calif.
TE Br. Manumaleuna Torrance, Calif.
OL Edwin Mulitalo Daly City, Calif.
DL Ben Alualu Honolulu
DL Keoni Fraser Kailua
OL Makoa Freitas Honolulu
DE Alex Luna San Fernando, Calif.
OL Manu Savea Samoa
DT Young Thompson Samoa
OL Wes Amitoelau Salt Lake City
RB Wilton Paogofie Kona
LB Joe Siofele Waipahu
DL Ben Tuinei Samoa
RB Galovale Galovale Samoa
DL Fata Avegalio Samoa
DB Ivan Dulduao Kapolei
DL Vince Feula La Mirada, Calif.
C Keoki Fraser Kailua
RB Joey Willrodt Salinas, Calif.
OL Kili Lefotu Riverside, Calif.
DL Paul Philipp San Bernardino, Calif.
DT Carl Tuitavuki Oakland, Calif.
DE Chris Kolone San Diego, Calif.
QB WiIlie Tuitama Stockton, Calif.
DT Conan Amituanai Long Beach, Calif.
DT Lolomana Mikaele Honolulu
RB Chris Jennings Ashland, Ky.
DB Trevor Foster Ontario, Calif.