By Jim Halley, USA TODAY
Kyle Gouveia, an all-state linebacker from Stone Bridge (Ashburn, Va.) had 90 first hits, 30 assisted tackles, five interceptions and five sacks in 2010 for a team that finished second in the state's second-largest classification.
What he doesn't have yet is a college football scholarship, one reason he's looking forward to playing Saturday in the AIGA Polynesian All-American Football Classic in Los Angeles.
Though the percentage of people with Pacific Islander ethnicity is very small in the U.S. population, it is proportionately higher in college football.
The 2009 U.S. census listed residents with Native Hawaiian or Pacific Island ancestry as only 578,000, or roughly 0.19% of the population. According to an NCAA report from the 2007-08 school year, those with Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander ethnicity accounted for 1.9% of football players in all divisions.
"We come from a people who are family oriented," said George Malauulu, a former quarterback at Arizona and president of the AIGA foundation.
"Most U.S. kids play for their school. As a Polynesian, it goes deeper. When you step on a football field, you represent your family and your culture."
Though Gouveia said some college coaches might find him, at 6-2, 205 pounds, to be too slow to be a defensive back and too small to be a college linebacker, he shares an affinity with many Polynesian players in that he enjoys hitting.
"I think it's the physical part of the game — we all like that, along with the hard work," Gouveia said.
Gouveia's father, Walter, played college football, as did Gouveia's older brother, Walter Jr. He has a cousin, Jeron, who's a linebacker for Virginia Tech and another, Landon, who played wide receiver for Catawba (N.C.). Gouveia's uncle is former NFL linebacker Kurt Gouveia, one of the coaches in Saturday's game. Gouveia's father and older brother also will be on hand Saturday.
"They've helped me out in so many ways, especially in tips on how to play," Kyle said.
Some of the other players with prominent ties in the game: Pottsgrove (Pottstown, Pa.) running back/defensive back Maika Polamalu, cousin of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu; Bishop's School (La Jolla, Calif.) linebacker Micah Seau and La Costa (Carlsbad, Calif.) linebacker Ian Seau, nephews of NFL great Junior Seau; and, Broadneck (Annapolis, Md.) linebacker Va'a Niumatalolo, son of Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo.
"A lot of these kids are related to players who are in the NFL right now," said Sean Duran, one of the game's organizers. "I think the reason you see so many good Polynesian players is the culture. There's a lot of emphasis on family and discipline and that adapts to football."
Gouveia said he looks forward to connecting with other Polynesian players this week.
"I don't know too many other Polynesian players," he said. "We'll probably talk about food, family and whatever common interests we have. I'll have to learn the Haka (a Maori traditional dance performed immediately before sport matches)."
The game will be played at Cathedral High and webcast live at 7 p.m. ET on uproz.com.