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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Polynesians at home at Arizona State

Arizona State and Arizona in the last few years have dramatically stepped up their recruiting of Samoans, Tongans, and Hawaiians. The Wildcats will have four Polynesians (Amituana'i, Mikaele, Philipp, and Tuitama) at the Tucson roster and the Sun Devils will have 13 Polys (Altieri, Fa'agai, Fanaika, Kofe, Lauvao, Manutai, Marquardt, Niusulu, Rodd, Talavou, Tevaseu, and Tuitu'u) at the Tempe campus. The linked article also mentions Dan Guthrie as having Polynesian ties which is new me and has yet to be confirmed.

**Guthrie is Rotuman***

Article below from the Arizona Republic.

Polynesians at home at Arizona St.
Sun Devils have 14 players with connections to islands

Paola Boivin
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 2, 2006 12:00 AM Spend an hour with Will Kofe and Brandon Rodd and you'll want to book the first flight to Tonga and order a glass of kava. I've come to talk football but am distracted by a big-time Polynesian vibe on the Arizona State campus.

The Sun Devils roster features 14 players with connections to Polynesia, a group of islands in the central and South Pacific including Hawaii, Tonga and Samoa. If you notice improvement in the trenches this season, credit this group, which contributes 12 players to the offensive and defensive lines.

It's particularly noteworthy at this time of year as ASU brings in recruits for visits. Junior offensive lineman Rodd, who was raised in Hawaii, and senior defensive end Kofe, who has roots in Tonga, are two of ASU's most effective recruiting hosts. Both were surely at the top of their game last week when one of those who visited was highly coveted Will Tukuafu, a defensive end out of Scottsdale Community College who has received offers from Southern California, Brigham Young, Arizona and Washington. The Utah-reared player will redshirt this year as he completes work for his associates degree at Mesa Community College and will be available for the 2007 season. ASU coach Dirk Koetter hopes it's in Tempe.

ASU has long been a pipeline for Polynesian players. Frank Kush was one of the first college coaches to aggressively recruit Polynesians, and through the years, many have dotted the ASU roster, from Junior Ah You to Junior Ioane. The count in Tempe has never been this high, however, and much credit goes to Rodd and Kofe, who have worked hard to keep their Polynesian heritage part of the recruiting process.

"When I find out the guy is Polynesian, I'll call the other Polynesian guys and say, 'We got another Poly here,' " Kofe said. "We all gather up at B-Rodd's house and we just talk to him, we drink kava all night and just talk."

That's what hooked Kofe out of Dixie College in Utah.

"That's what got me the most," he said. "The players put their hands out and told me how it is here. I felt a family vibe. Other places I went to, the Polynesians weren't as close as I was to B-Rodd."

Staying connected to other Polys is an important part of their culture.

"Everything is about family," Rodd said. "It's respect for everyone. You don't put anyone down and you try to raise everybody up."

Rodd and Kofe are two of the most affable players on the team. That, too, comes from a culture that values friendships over material possessions and helps explain an unfair stereotype about Polynesian players.

"They think we're all lazy," Rodd said, laughing.

"Not true," Kofe said. "We just like to hang out and chill."

"What people don't understand," Rodd said, "is that it doesn't take much to make us happy. Everyone else needs to go buy stuff, see a movie. We can be happy sitting in a circle listening to music all night. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that most Polys aren't the richest people in the world."

Koetter, too, quickly dismissed the stereotype.

"Based on the kids we have, I don't think anybody could attach that label," he said. "It's unfair of any ethnic group. All the kids we have on our team are their own individuals. The one thing that jumps out to me is that they're good teammates. Coachable guys and good teammates."

Seven of these players are offensive linemen. Rodd and Leo Talavou are projected starters, with Shawn Lauvao, Thomas Altieri, Paul Fanaika and Richard Tuitu'u top reserves. Saia Falahola, a freshman out of Texas, is also on the roster this season.

Michael Marquardt should start at defensive tackle with Kofe a backup at defensive end. Newcomers on the defensive line include junior college transfers Alex Fa'agai and Martin Tevaseu and freshman Zach Niusulu.

Other players with Polynesian ties include tight end Dane Guthrie and linebacker Beau Manutai.

Don't be surprised to see some among this group land in the NFL. More and more Polynesians are finding their way into pro training camps.

"It makes me feel good," Kofe said. "It's like they're taking part of my culture with them."

A culture the ASU coaching staff is more than happy to embrace.

Reach Boivin at or (602) 444-8956.

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