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Polynesian football players gaining prominence

Published: Monday, Feb. 4 2013 12:30 p.m. MST

Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (92) heads to the sidelines during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. The Ravens signed Ngata to a five-year, $61-million contract on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011.

Keith Srakocic, Associated Press

Our take: Five Polynesians played in Super Bowl XLVII. Jim Corbett wrote an article for USA Today that describes how college coaches love recruiting Polynesians from the Pacific Islands because the players have size and character. The article also talks about Polynesians at BYU and Utah and their connection to the LDS Church.

NEW ORLEANS — Harbaughed out yet?

Then let us offer you the Polynesian Bowl.

In Super Bowl XLVII, there is a fascinating, under-the-radar story line of family lineage, fierce rivalry and brotherhood that traces to the tiny Pacific Islands and their centuries-old heritages.

As the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens are expected to deliver an extremely physical game, it's fitting that three Tongans and two Samoans will battle along the line of scrimmage.

The Ravens' humongous Tongan defensive linemen Haloti Ngata and Ma'ake Kemoeatu will channel their warrior spirit in attacking Samoan 49ers guard Mike Iupati and Tongan backup fullback Will Tukuafu.

49ers nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga of American Samoa will be the other Polynesian suiting up Sunday.

These five wide bodies are the crest of a coming wave of Polynesians swelling among the college ranks, particularly in the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences.

And why not? Ngata stands 6-4, 340 pounds. Kemoeatu is 6-5, 345.

San Francisco's monster pulling guard Iupati is 6-5, 341. Sopoaga is 6-2, 330, and Tukuafu is the small fry of this Polynesian Fab Five at 6-4, 293.

"Polynesian players are built for combat, built for football — big, strong, fast," said Haloti Moala, 46, uncle and surrogate father to Ngata, whom Moala coached at Highland High in Salt Lake City. "The warrior spirit is within us.

"We love contact. That's been the history of our people."

Read more about Polynesian players in the Super Bowl on USA Today.

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