The young men depicted in the film In Football We Trust dream of continuing a tradition among Polynesian athletes: to play in the NFL. Even though Polynesians (Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders) make up only 0.5 percent of the U.S. population (2010 U.S. Census), more than 200 Polynesians have played professionally in the National Football League (and in the Canadian Football League) — 28 times more likely than any other ethnic group. Just like the Bloomfield brothers, Fihi Kaufusi, and Harvey Langi from In Football We Trust, many Polynesian NFL players had to face poverty, gang violence, and racism.
In honor of their past, present, and future in the sport, I’ve compiled what I consider the very best Polynesian players to ever play in the NFL. While their presence has been felt most heavily in a few positions, making it a challenge to field an all-star team that covers a typical football formation on both offense and defense (as you can see, the best players historically have been on the offensive and defensive line and at linebacker), there were enough very skilled players to field a full team. Polynesian players have prized their fierceness, loyalty, and pride in their own culture, and this squad represents that tradition.
Here are some of the players I’d like to give a shout out as honorable mentions:
Quarterback Jack Thompson, a.k.a., the “Throwin’ Samoan,” who was the first Polynesian QB to make it to NFL, and the 3rd overall pick in the 1979 draft, though ultimately considered a disappointment; defensive tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen; linebacker Manti T’eo, so far a solid pro, but was especially memorable as a college player (mostly on the field, where he was Heisman runner-up and unanimous All-American; offensive lineman Mike Iupati; linebacker Nate Fakahafua Orchard; and defensive end Manu Tuiasosopo.
If I missed any other favorites, give them a shout out in the comments below.