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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bengals receive huge welcome at Fagaitua, Samoana & Voc-Tech

Cincinnati Bengals stars — Domata Peko and Rey Maualuga received huge welcomes at Fagaitua, Samoana and Nu’uuli Voc-Tech high schools yesterday — when they donated equipment to football programs and urged students to get an education, noting the key to success is hard work.

The Vikings, Sharks and Wildcats excitedly welcomed the Bengals.

An assembly of students and faculty from Fagaitua, where Peko was a 10th and 11th grader, was the first group to be visited by the Peko/Maualuga entourage, Peko’s wife Anna, their sons and many other relatives.

“I’ll never forget Fagaitua High School...I had the best time of my life here,” Peko told students and faculty, and the crowd roared.

Helmets and pads were donated to all three schools by the newly-formed Domata Peko Foundation. Maualuga has donated cleats for all the players. Students received souvenirs, Bengals posters, candies and some keen advice from Peko and Maualuga. Those who asked questions received Bengals wear.

“First of all I’d like to thank God for this opportunity,” said Peko. “I thank the principal, and the teachers for having me here today...I wanted to come and talk to you a little bit about education...we need to stress to players that football and education go can’t have one without the other.”

Peko said he attended Lauli’i Elementary School, Fagaitua High and graduated from Samoana. He earned an associate degree from a junior college and picked up a full scholarship to attend Michigan State University where he majored in sociology. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2006 NFL draft.

It was his dream to play for the NFL.

“I was in your shoes...I’m here now, I made it,” he told the Vikings. “In order to be successful, you have to work hard, listen to your teachers, keep your head up high...if I can do it, you can too.”

He pushed them to resist peer pressure.

“I know it’s hard, sometimes it’s hard,” he recalled. “Your friends say ‘sole ka’o e faakau se pusa pia.’ It was tough to be able to stay away from those things.”

The motto of the Domata Peko Foundation is “Building our kids a brighter future.”

In response to questions from Fagaitua kids, he said the best thing that has happened to him are his two kids — sons Domata Jr. and Joseph. His favorite music is reggae.

The Vikings insisted on hearing from Maualuga who has been able to trace his roots back to Sili, Olosega, Manu’a, however, his family lives in Nu’uuli, he explained.

“The opportunity to come back to where my mom and dad are from...I grew up in Hawaii with my older brother,” he said. “We used to get upset because we had to wear the same clothes to school every year...I was ashamed...people made fun of us. My dad would tell us ‘poko le ulu, maua ai mea lelei’.”

He said he chose to chase his dreams of playing in the NFL.

“Put God first in your life...being able to appreciate...when I wake up everyday I try to represent you guys, I’m representing all the Samoans,” said Maualuga.

All school visits were opened with words of prayer and hymns sung by the students. At each school the players changed their uniforms to fit in with the student body, each taking mementos of the schools with them.

At Voc-Tech, the school’s Top 4 students for this quarter were awarded Bengals jerseys by Peko.

He also urged students to do their best, to be the fastest and strongest as in the NFL you are among the “best of the best.”

Principals Samasoni Asaeli (Fagaitua), Simon Mageo (Samoana) and Saouila Fanene Kava (Voc-Tech) thanked the Bengals for their help and for visiting their schools.

Each principal was presented a jersey by Peko.

Students cheered and screamed for the football stars during the assemblies.

At Samoana, Maualuga said when he was a child his parents worked two jobs to put food on the table. A rowdy Sharks audience quieted with Maualuga’s story. He said it was hard growing up and told students to be mindful of, and thankful for their parents.

Maualuga’s father died several years ago.

At Voc-Tech, he told the gathering that he lived in a strict household and his mother worked hard everyday. Maualauga said he wanted to make his dreams a reality and play for the NFL so he could take care of his mother and she would never have to work another day.

“Be happy they (your parents) are here,” he said. “I thank God for the opportunity to play football. Anything’s possible...the sky is the limit. There will be some bumps...but put God first.”

Peko, Maualuga and their families will also visit Tafuna, Leone, , Fa’asao Marist high schools and Lauli’i Elementary.

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