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Friday, February 02, 2007

Gabe Reid to be first ASHSAA-bred Samoan playing in Super Bowl

Gabe Reid to be first ASHSAA-bred Samoan playing in Super Bowl

by Brian Vitolio

Gabe Reid will become the first American Samoa High School Athletics Association-bred football player to play in a Super Bowl come Sunday, February 4, 2007 in Dolphin Stadium at Miami.

"When he was a young boy I remember him saying, 'I want to play in the Super Bowl," recalled Eugene Reid, Gabe's father. "And now that's exactly what he's going to be doing. I'm proud of Gabriel for achieving his goal and I'm proud that he is representing American Samoa in this big event."

There have been other Samoans that played in Super Bowls past such as Junior Seau (San Diego Chargers - Super Bowl XXIX); Mark Tuinei (Dallas Cowboys - XXVII, XXVIII, XXX) and Jesse Sapolu (San Francisco 49ers - XIX, XXIII, XXIV, XXVIII) to name a few. (For the curious, Seau lost in his only appearance to the 49ers while Tuinei and Sapolu won in all their appearances).

But these Samoans and some others were raised and attended school off island, mainly in Hawaii.

Now American Samoa can lay claim to one of its own sons, born and bred in the territory, competing for what every football player dreams of, a Super Bowl ring.

If the Chicago wins, Reid (listed as the Bears' third tight end on the depth chart) will not be the first ASHSAA football-bred player to get a Super Bowl ring. That distinction belongs to Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Shawn Nua, the son of former Manu'a Dist. No. 1 Rep. Mailo Saoluaga T. Nua.

He did not play in the Super Bowl but was a member of their practice squad when the Steelers won last year's Super Bowl over the Seattle Seahawks.

Reid, however, will get the distinction of being the first ASHSAA football-bred player to play in the NFL's championship game.

"He said he just couldn't believe he's going to be playing in the Super Bowl," exclaimed Eugene over a telephone call from Salt Lake City, Utah. "Not many great NFL players get to play in the Super Bowl and he's just amazed."

Reid, the father, cannot believe it himself, and he's got a prediction.

"In every playoff game they've played, the Bears have been underdogs," he pointed out. "And in all of those games the Bears have won. So I'm telling you, the Bears are going to win!"

Reid is used mostly as a blocking tight end and on special teams, but most recently he's lined up at fullback after their starter was injured.

In their game against the Seahawks, Reid caught one pass for five yards and returned one punt back for 20.

"I was watching the game o TV and the announcer said, 'Well, we have a new fullback, Gabe Reid,'" recalled Francis Tuitele, Reid's high school football head coach at Leone. "I started smiling and said 'Thank the Lord my boy is playing.'"

During the 2006 season, he played in 13 games, was a starter in one of them, and caught four passes for a total of 37 yards. His longest catch of the season was for 19 yards and two of those catches were good for first downs.

In 2005, Reid played in all 16 games (started three) after sitting out the whole 2004 season after he tore his ACL in training camp. In 2003 he appeared in one game as a rookie for the Bears after spending most of the year on the practice squad.

Reid first entered the NFL in 2003 as an undrafted free agent and signed with the N.Y. Jets on May 5 but was later waived in August.

The Tennessee Titans signed him on to their practice squad in September and was later claimed off of the practice squad by the Bears in November.

He then signed a one-year tender with Chicago for 2006 and on April 7 of last year was re-signed to a one-year deal.

He was a quarterback and receiver for the Lions team that won the title his senior year and then followed older brother Spencer to BYU-Provo.

Spencer was the first ASHSAA football-bred athlete to be drafted by the NFL, (Carolina Panthers), and he later played for the team his younger brother Gabe is meeting in the Super Bowl, the Indianapolis Colts.

"Spencer is so proud of him," said father Eugene, "and he's having a Super Bowl party here in Utah and he's inviting friends and family to watch the game with him."

Spencer is no longer in the NFL after suffering a career-threatening injury, according to his father.

Eugene, his wife Tupu, sons Jared, Gordon and Adney and their cousin Keni will be watching the Super Bowl at Dolphin Stadium courtesy of the Chicago Bears.

"They're paying for a hotel room for us from Thursday till Monday," Eugene said. "My wife brought 60 ula maile for us to present to the team after the game and we hope to highlight it on TV."

Tuitele, now a sports official at the D.O.E's Athletics Department cannot believe Gabe is playing in the ultimate NFL game this Sunday.

"He came last year to visit and if you see him, he doesn't look big and doesn't look like an NFL player," he said. "When you look at him, you ask yourself 'How the hell this guy make it to the NFL?'

"He was a kid who doesn't say that much and he wasn't a star like his brother Spencer," Tuitele recalled. "But he was a hard worker and one thing I know about Gabe is that he's always willing to learn."

Tuitele said that Gabe did not talk all that much about being an NFL player, but he did say when he's out there competing with someone else for a roster spot, he gives it his all.

"He said he just goes all out, and that's they way he's always been," Tuitele said.

Gabe, according to his father, is a favorite interviewee subject by Spanish language television, Telemundo.

"They love to interview him because of his fluency in Spanish," Eugene said. "He learned the language while he was on his mission in Santiago, Chile."

"When he came back from his mission, he told me, 'Man, I eat anything over there like cockroaches," Tuitele said while chuckling at the memory of the telling. "He told me it was a very poor country and we're much better off here because he was sleeping on the ground and on rocks."

After the Super Bowl, what he will get to sleep in is his new house in Spanish Fork, Utah that was just completed recently.

"He hasn't seen his house yet," Eugene said.

His wife, Heather, and their three children are currently occupying the house until he is free of his obligations with the Chicago Bears. He and Heather have two daughters - Milovale, 5, and Jadynn, 3 - and one-year-old son Adney.

Gabe is one of 13 children - eight boys and five girls.

Before Eugene's youngest son Adney graduated in 1999, Leone's teams had at least one Reid on their squad for a number of years and each one was one of the team's key players, including Gabe.

Tuitele and D.O.E Athletics Director Maselino Tautu have only one message they want to impart on all rooting for either Chicago or the Colts - "Go Bears!"

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