Article published Oct 19, 2006
A&T player long way from home
ADVERTISEMENTGREENSBORO -- Andrew Sagote can't promise he's starting something here. But when N.C. A&T alumni declare that Aggie Pride is Worldwide, a 325-pound offensive tackle from American Samoa might be their best messenger.
Sagote's hometown of Pago Pago is 6,842 miles west of the Gate City and 125 miles east of tomorrow. It is almost impossible for a football player to travel farther than this guy has to chase a dream -- from the shadow of the international date line to the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
But he thinks he'll stick around awhile.
"Greensboro is pretty good," the junior-college transfer said this week. "Lot of nice people here."
At 0-6, the Aggies are stuck in the longest losing streak in school history and are entering homecoming winless for the first time since 1987. But you won't hear too many complaints from Sagote, who is happy to be here even if he hasn't seen a homecoming parade or memorized the life stories of the A&T Four.
American Samoa is a U.S. territory with few neighbors and surrounded by a lot of Pacific Ocean. It's the physical size of Washington, D.C., and has the population (estimated at 57,792) of Burlington and Mebane combined. Fly from Greensboro to Los Angeles, and you're less than a third of the way to Pago Pago.
Its six high schools -- fewer than half the total in Guilford County -- produce football players. Two dozen Samoans are on NFL rosters, and an ESPN study in 2002 said an American Samoan male was 40 times more likely than the average American male to make it to the NFL.
"In American Samoa, we have one TV channel, and everything comes on it," Sagote said. "Samoan news, everything. But every Sunday, the NFL games are on."
Sagote didn't pick up the game until his junior year at Leone High.
"My dad pushed me and convinced me to play more and to play harder," Sagote said.
Further motivation came from a few teammates a year ahead of him. After graduating in 2004, he thought he would join them at Los Angeles Valley College, a two-year school in Valley Glen, Calif. But housing didn't come through, so Sagote had to make a quick move.
One of Sagote's uncles had a brother-in-law who knew the coach at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, Calif., 330 miles north. So Sagote landed there and played two seasons.
Among the frequent recruiters of talent there was Kenneth Ray of Graceland University, a 1,200-student NAIA school in Iowa. Ray was hired this year by new A&T coach Lee Fobbs, who had known him from a few common months at Southern Mississippi. Ray called out to Stockton in February seeking linemen, and a look at tape sold Ray that Sagote merited a full scholarship.
"A&T came at the right time," Sagote said. "I decided to go here, and I really liked the coaches."
He immediately earned a starting job in preseason camp and is considered one of the most reliable players on a generally struggling offense.
Phone calls home are made every Friday, or "when I have the money to get a phone card," he said.
Sagote hasn't been home since December, and he might not like this winter thing, but if a pro football career doesn't materialize, he thinks he'll put a planned criminal justice degree to work and stay in the U.S. for a couple of years.
After his various journeys, who could blame him?
Contact Rob Daniels at 373-7028 or email@example.com