Three Tongans Selected In NFL Football Draft

Pita Taumoepenu, Stevie Tuikolovatu, Sam Tevi pursue their dreams of playing professionally

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 8, 2017) – Tongan-raised Pita Taumoepenu of Pea, has been drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. He is among three football players of Tongan descent who were selected in the 2017 NFL Draft on April 27 – 29. The two others are Stevie Tuikolovatu from Utah and Sam Tevi from Texas.

The 23-year-old Pita Taumoepenu was born in Euless, Texas to a Tongan mother. Taumoepenu was sent to Tonga as an infant and raised by his grandparents before moving back to the States when he was 17. 

"My mom is a single mother. My dad has never been around in my life. My mom was working at the airport at that time so she really didn't have enough time to take care of me, so I moved to Tonga with my grandparents," Taumoepenu told Stack News.

"I worked on my grandpa's farm growing up. We grew manioke, taro, watermelons, pineapples…my grandpa was a hard worker. He basically farmed for the whole village.”

Upon moving to the States, Taumoepenu quickly adapted to the sport of American Football, and won a football scholarship to play as a Defensive Lineman for the Utah Utes. When Taumoepenu started playing Gridiron at his local High School in Utah, he had no prior experience.

"I told the coach all I wanted was an opportunity. He asked me if I'd ever played football before. I said 'no.' Then he was laughing and told me, 'maybe you should just go home and play video games.' The whole team was cracking up, laughing. I stood there looking at them, and I knew I was going to have to prove myself”, he told Stack News.

Having fulfilled his dream as a professional athlete, Taumoepenu credited his late grandfather for inspiring him to succeed. 

He told Stack News, "I remember working one time, and I was really tired. But I looked at my grandpa, he was still working so hard. He could have just farmed enough for our family and stopped, but he was doing it for the whole village.”

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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