Samoan N.F.L. stars represent their roots
Two National Football League players with Samoan heritage, Tua Tagovailoa and Marcus Mariota, are representing their Samoan heritage at the top of America's most popular sport.
Tagovailoa is the quarterback for the Miami Dolphins quarterback and Mariota the Las Vegas Raiders.
Sports news website E.S.P.N. reports that Tagovailoa first met Mariota as a fourth-grader at the Saint Louis School passing camp in Honolulu.
"Marcus took me under his wing. And he was the best one there. Since then, I really looked up to him," Tagovailoa said. "Marcus has been the standard a lot of the kids back home look up to as a person, a human being. Being as good as he was, it didn't change who he was as a person."
It was there that the bond between the quarterbacks began with ESPN reporting that Mariota mentored Tagovailoa, including giving him throwing tips.
In January 2018 it was Mariota who sent a congratulatory text to Tagovailoa, after he reportedly came off the bench to lead Alabama to a national championship.
"Tua is a stud. He's the next guy coming up. Proud of him," Mariota said then. "From where that kid's come, how he's grown and how he handled the situation. He's very special....It's nice to see someone like him continue to carry the torch from back home."
According to ESPN, the two are considered role models – humble, family-first men which is important for a Polynesian community that is tight-knit and often supportive.
Tagovailoa and Mariota are proud of their Samoan culture and Hawai'i roots. Tagovailoa's parents, Galu and Diane, are Samoan, as is Mariota's father, Toa.
Mariota, when he started with the Tennessee Titans, came out every home game to a song called "Polynesian People," and Tagovailoa regularly wears an Aloha shirt and an ie faitaga or lavalava on game days.
"It's something pretty cool to look around and see that our people, Samoan people, are not always going to be on the opposite side of the ball or in the trenches, on the D-line, on the defense or on the O-line," Tagovailoa said. "It's pretty cool to see that guys from our culture can also play skill positions and quarterback. I think that speaks volumes to how they were raised as well and their upbringing, too."