TP+ Pacific NFL Players in New Zealand to Promote Education
Southern Cross Campus was treated to gridiron royalty today as they welcomed three former NFL players to run a drill session.
Ma’a Tanuvasa, Reno Mahe and Vai Sikahema are in the country this week to conduct coaching seminars, skill clinics and school visits under the banner of the Hawaiian-based Polynesian Football Hall Fame.
This is the third visit to New Zealand by Tanuvasa, who came to prominence as a defensive end for the Denver Broncos in the mid 90s. He admits that while gridiron will never compete with rugby, he hopes the visit can spark further growth in New Zealand.
“There’s not enough coaches to coach the game so hopefully we can be able to coach the coaches…and eventually the game will grow,” Tanuvasa says.
Sikahema graced televisions as a the first Tongan to crack the NFL in 1986, spending seven years in the league before switching to a career in television where he currently remains as a broadcaster for NBC. He says while the New Zealand visit is focused on growing the game, it’s part of a bigger plan to get more Pacific people into higher education.
“Outside of that honestly I don’t care about American football, that’s the job of the NFL.”
“I only care about my youth, the young people of my homeland and Polynesians that they have an opportunity to get an education and if you can get a free education because of your prowess in gridiron, all the better.”
One Kiwi who has already reaped the benefits and is now paving the way for local players to do the same is Aucklander Mark Nua, who was awarded a scholarship to BYU before making the NFL as an offensive lineman for the Detroit Lions and the San Diego Chargers in 1992.
“Back in the mid 80s, I had just finished school and I didn’t really have any opportunities”
“I was offered a scholarship and I graduated…that was probably the most proudest thing I think [for] my parents is that I actually graduated university with a BA in Sociology”
The Polynesian Hall of famers fly out of New Zealand tomorrow.