Celebrating This Year’s Inductees
The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame (PFHOF) weekend started off with a celebratory dinner ceremony in Waikiki Friday night. The following day, the players were added to the Hall of Fame in an induction ceremony that took place at the Polynesian Cultural Center. It was during this time that each player was recognized and given an opportunity to share a few remarks. With more than 100 names nominated only four were selected for this year’s Class of 2019 Inductees. They were as follows; David Dixon of Maori Ancestry, Frank Manumaluega of Samoan Ancestry, Haloti Ngata of Tongan Ancestry and Dominic Raiola of Hawaiian Ancestry. Alongside these 4 men, Ronnie Stanly was named the Polynesian Pro Football Player of the Year and Peni Sewell & Tua Tagovailoa were co-Polynesian College Players of the Year.
Soon after the initial introduction and press conference interviews, a lunch was held at the beautiful Gateway Restaurant. Following that, participants gathered in the Hawaiian Journey theater for the presentation of the inductees. It is here where each player is presented a PFHOF ring and are given an opportunity to express their thoughts and appreciation.
David Dixon – Striving for better things
David Dixon, the second player of Maori descent to play professional football, spoke first. He first gave appreciation to the late George O’Scanlon who, as Dixon describes, “found me on the streets and gave me the opportunity that one day if I put in the hard work, good things will come out of it.” He then spoke of his wife and her perseverance in supporting him starting from college and then in every step to the present day. Dixon stated that she was the one who helped them to “keep striving for better and better things.” He shared his experience of making it to professional football. Going in, he said that they were expected to know everything but he just wasn’t playing the way he wanted; however, time and time again, he was given opportunities to progress and then learn and improve along the way.
Frank Manumaleuga – Hat tip to the past
Frank “Mowin’ Samoan” Manumaluega, spoke of his parents traveling from Samoa to Hawaii with all of his siblings, and then eventually moving to California “My parents had a lot to do with the good things … even when sometimes growing up we thought they were the worst things.” He was raised to respect and listen to his parents. He went on to say, “You gotta work together– as a team. You gotta be easy to do things. If a coach tells you to do a certain thing, you do it the best you can. That’s the way Samoan kids were brought up. You look at a coach like a parent when you are away from home.”
He shared that it is one’s culture that really defines who you are. “You’re playing for yourself; you’re playing for your family, and you’re playing for your people.” He invited his wife to come up to join him as he expresses how grateful he was to his wife. It was because of her that he was able to make the right choices in his life. He is also the father of 11 children. Manumaleuga recognizes the blessing in his life and sees his responsibility to give back. “I gotta do what I gotta do as a father,” he says, “ and also as a husband to my wife and my kids.”
Haloti Ngata – Lessons learned over the years
Haloti Ngata acknowledges that his belief in God is what has kept him going. His parents are from Tonga and moved to LA to raise their family, but soon moved to Utah where his father worked 3 jobs to allow his mother to stay home and raise the family. He said that he learned hard work and discipline from his father; his mother taught him to love others, but most importantly, he learned from both parents to give service. He said that he has felt a stronger connection with them as he is surrounded by the Polynesian culture. He then moved on to pay homage to the many coaches who have impacted his life throughout the years. Ngata also expressed his gratitude to his wife and children. He then speaks to the rising generation of athletes.”It’s ok to make mistakes; you’re gonna make mistakes, but the sooner you guys can correct those mistakes, the better you’ll be. You create confidence and you match that with hard work, [then] you get a recipe that’s gonna make you unstoppable.”
Dominic Raiola – Relentless and resilient
The concluding speaker, Dominic Raiola, expressed that his wife is his ultimate supporter throughout all the years. In all the hard times she has been his strength. Raiola also honored those mentors that have impacted his life. He described the feeling of walking a road that has been paved by many of the greats which has allowed him to be standing where he is today. Growing up, there was the mentality in the Raiola home that “good wasn’t good enough, there was always a better way to do it.” He still goes by that philosophy today. At the conclusion of his remarks, he shared that the words that come to mind are culture and community. “It truly takes a village,” he says, “the way we are raised shapes us.” He then powerfully states, “Polynesians are warriors… we are relentless and resilient.”
Honor and strength
Overall, the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame encompasses more than just the inductees. As we celebrate the accomplishments of the inductees, we are quickly reminded by what guiding principles allowed them to make it thus far. Culture, family and a deep connection and appreciation to one’s roots have helped the inductees make a lasting impact in the hearts and minds of all those who know them. It is their families, communities and cultures that are honored along with these men. PFHOF is a way to honor the past and draw strength from it. It’s a way to say we are making our mark on history. Our culture makes us the people and players we are! Our culture and our very being are inseparable.
The PFHoF, a program that recognizes individuals of Polynesian ancestry, celebrated its yearly induction ceremony. Since its establishment in 2013, the program has inducted a total of 33 professional football players, coaches and contributors. The mission of the founders Jesse Sapolu and Maa Tanuvasa, former National Football League players, was to honor those of Polynesian ancestry who have made special contributions to the world of football. However, when one attends a PFHOF induction ceremony, it is clear to see that this recognition isn’t just about football.
Story by Cari Phung, who worked as an English and Korean tour guide for a year at the Polynesian Cultural Center before her current job as an English tutor and blog writer for PCC. She is a BYUH student majoring in graphic design and minoring in professional writing. During an internship, she wrote several blogs for Rice Love, a non-profit organization striving to help families in India have access to food. She is constantly looking for ways to share her love for culture and its continued perpetuation.