Haloti Ngata did not follow the typical script for financial success. After his family moved from Tonga to Southern California, he bounced around in a few homes before his father Solomone moved the family to Utah.
"My dad was athletic. Hard-working," said the All-Pro nose tackle.
Haloti's brother Vili recalled, "He was really disciplined. Going to church — me and Haloti, we skipped a lot of class. He caught us a lot."
Holding down two jobs, Solomone would come home at the end of the day dead tired only to be asked to play outside for a while.
"I think the best memory of my dad was playing street ball. It was awesome."
The Ngata boys all played sports. Their dad boxed and played rugby but didn't want his boys playing the game. Eventually, Haloti was allowed to play, and did so for legendary coach Larry Gelwix at Highland High School.
Solomone died in a traffic accident in December 2002. At the time, Haloti was playing football at the University of Oregon.
"To me it was like losing two dads — not having Loti around and my dad around. I didn't feel like I was in a spot to be an older brother or the man of the house," said Vili.
Haloti's draft stock rose. After using three years of eligibility at Oregon, he declared for the NFL, and Baltimore chose him in the first round with the 12th overall pick. He contributed immediately.
"Just being able to say that you're an NFL player has been awesome. Becoming a father, though, that's probably been the highlight of being in the NFL."
Haloti and his wife, the former Christina Adams, were married in June 2007 and have two boys: Solomon and Maximus.
Vili smiled and said, "I forget sometimes that he's a superstar. (To me) he's just my brother."
Haloti chalks up a lot of his success to the work ethic his dad taught him as he and Vili were dragged along on construction jobs. Their pay? A 32-ounce Big Gulp after they were done.Comment on this story
The hard work has paid off pretty well for Haloti, who is now among the NFL's highest paid defensive linemen. He can now afford about 15 million Big Gulps each year.
"I miss his voice and his smile. Sometimes I hear him on the sideline, 'Go Loti, go Loti,’ ” he said of his dad.
The lessons he picked up from his father — the time spent with them coming home after work, the hard work for little pay, the "encouragement" to attend church — those are the things he hopes he can pass along to his two boys.
And if he could turn back time, what would Haloti change from what he learned from his father? Probably Ngata thing.
Tim Johnson is the art director at KSL-TV in Salt Lake City. He and his wife, Alicia, are the proud parents of five daughters who, thankfully, look like their mother.