The NFL is full of American Samoans. A few of them are from American Samoa and the rest are American Samoans raised in the United States. Junior Seau and Troy Polamalu are names that everyone would know. Both are American Samoans.
As Troy put it on a Prime Time special, football is the “meal ticket” of the kids in American Samoa. It is their ticket to college at the minimum. Most families there see their chance at breaking the cycle of poverty through a son making in the game of football. Unrealistic but it is the only shot they have. I guess you could call it their hail mary as time expires.
The fact is that a young man from American Samoa has a 56 times better chance of making the draft than someone from anywhere else in the United States. They have earned the name Football Island for a reason. More on that later.
Understanding football in American Samoa
They live, breathe and sleep the game. Every high school has a team and will play all the others in their season. The top teams will face off in the local version of the Super Bowl that is oddly called the Samoa Bowl. It is basically a holiday in the territory when it happens.
If you miss the hard hitting days back when Lawrence Taylor knocked the crap out of Joe Montana, you will love football games in American Samoa. It is all power ball that is a game of who can plow the other team harder. Ground and pound is the football philosophy of every team there it seems.
If you happen to be there in the fall, make sure to catch a game at Memorial Stadium in Tufuna. It is fun to watch and reminds me of watching old games from before I was even born.
This style of football is basically illegal in the mainland. (Illegal in football, not with the police)
Some observations of football culture
I have some serious reservations about things they do with football in the territory and especially expectations they pump into these kids. I see the long term problems with them!
First of all, expecting an American Samoan to make the National Football League simply because he is of Samoan descent is setting him up for a huge disappointment. They are told that their families and villages are counting on them, etc. These young men do not deserve the weight of the pressure. It takes away the fun of just playing football.
The other issue is far more serious. Football is a very demanding sport and people get hurt. They need time to rest and to heal. This is why I always took a week off after football before starting wrestling practice. American Samoans want to practice twelve months a year with full pad practices. The damage it does to these young men can be (probably will be) long term.
I love the game of football but these boys do not need a broken body by 25!