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Unsung Heroes Draws Attention to the Success of the Polynesian Community in the Sport of Football

Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo appears in the Football Matters documentary that premiers January 15th.

Army v Navy Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Unsung Heroes: Football and the Polynesian Athlete unpacks how a community’s success in the sport is directly related to their respectful culture and family-based upbringing. The short documentary was produced by Football Matters, a National Football Foundation initiative that focuses on promoting sportsmanship, academic achievement, and the character building aspects of the game. After listening to current collegiate and Polynesian players like Texas Offensive Lineman Patrick Vahe and Iowa State Defensive Lineman Ray Lima describe the sport’s connection to their childhood, you can understand why Football Matters wanted to highlight the culture’s ties to the game.

In the documentary, Vahe and Lima speak with such reverence regarding their sport and their community. The two athletes display how the Polynesian culture stresses family and the communal aspect of life at such a young age and how those values created a culture that inherently understands football. Similarly, today’s best coaches preach words like “family”, “teamwork”, “brotherhood.” One coach that makes those elements part of his everyday coaching style is Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. Niumatalolo is of Polynesian descent and is known for his “do your job” tagline that is meant to remind each player that they have a purpose behind every play. If each player does their job than the team will succeed. While some football fans may immediately connect the Polynesian football success to the size and strength of the Polynesian athlete, Unsung Heroes shows that family, respect, and purpose represent the main causes for the culture’s achievement in the sport.

One of the most accomplished individuals connected to Polynesian football is Coach Niumatalolo. The two-time AAC Coach of the Year was an inaugural inductee to the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame and was the first Samoan coach to be named to a head coach position in collegiate football. Polynesian people undoubtedly see Niumatalolo as a pioneer for their culture and football, yet even he recognizes the Polynesian pioneers before him. His love for the game and the Polynesian people is put on display in Unsung Heroes and his interview highlights what many Polynesian football players feel today – pride in their islands-based community.

Unsung Heroes touches on the adversity unique to the Polynesian community and how overcoming those obstacles created a humble people that finds pride in hard work. In terms of football, that hard work has paid dividends as Polynesians are 28 more times likely to play in the NFL than any other ethnic group. This is a minority group that represents just 0.5% of the U.S. population but has produced the likes of household names such as Marcus Mariota and Tua Tagovailoa.

Unsung Heroes premiers on Tuesday, January 15th at Noon (Eastern) on all Football Matters social media channels. The documentary trailer can be seen below.