BOUNTIFUL — Alema Te’o arrived at Snow College from American Samoa in 1983 as an aspiring college football player.
But he didn't have a spot on the Snow College football team, and he only had $400 in his pocket.
Through hard work and having a clear goal in mind, Te’o made Snow's team as a walk-on before earning a scholarship. He went on to play for Southern Utah and later earned a master’s degree in education from Utah State.
He now works as a teacher at Bountiful High School and is also the primary founder and administrator of the All Poly Camp, which calls itself the No. 1 non-institutional football camp in the country.
Te’o founded the All Poly Camp to help impart to young players the type of structure that played a major role in his own success.
“My story isn’t a grand one by any means, but considering the humble beginnings I came from, I think I have some good experience and know-how that I can share with these young athletes,” Te’o said. “It’s about feeling part of a community and realizing that you have the potential to be a success on the football field, but especially off of it in the pursuit of education.”
Te’o grew up in American Samoa where football became a major driving force behind his own personal success. He describes his high school football experience as being different in a lot of ways from football in the United States.
“We had nothing,” Te’o said. “We’d share helmets, tape our own numbers on the jerseys. We didn’t even have mouthpieces, so it was pretty dangerous out there. We seriously took the attitude that when we took the field that we were going to war, but also that we were playing for the pride of our community and our family.”
A self-described “C student” in high school, Te’o found success at football and believed he could parlay that success into obtaining a quality education.
Te’o spent his first year at Snow College working full time to pay his tuition and living expenses before earning a scholarship.
“My experience proved to me that hard work pays off — dedication pays off,” he said. “Football was a means for me to graduate from college, to earn my master’s degree and become the man I am today. That’s what the All Poly Camp is all about. We want these kids to understand the importance of community and education and we do that through football.”
The All Poly Camp is now in its 14th year and has grown far beyond what Te’o envisioned when he founded it. The main upperclassmen camp is expected to have more than 500 participants while demand led Te’o to add a camp in Texas along with an underclassmen camp.
The camps all include top instruction from some of the best coaches in the country, academic workshops and inclusion into a community that Te’o believes can benefit the participants for a lifetime.
Many of the participants have gone on to earn football scholarships, including former Utah Ute and current Cleveland Brown Paul Kruger.
"I think Paul Kruger is probably the first participant we had to make it big," Te'o said. "He showed up without a lot of interest and before he knew it Urban Meyer, who was then coaching for Utah, stopped by the camp, watched him for an entire day and then offered him a scholarship. Stuff like that is awesome and we've had many kids like Paul have the same experience here."
Administering the camps is a lot of work. It's an undertaking that Te’o, the uncle of former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, couldn’t accomplish without a lot of help. Through the years the Bountiful teacher says he has received tons of help from people who share the goals of the All Poly Camp.
“I couldn’t even begin to name everyone who helps out, but they all know who they are and how grateful I am for them and all their hard work,” Te’o said. “It’s a strong community here and I’m so blessed to have people show up every year and ask for nothing in return.”
One of those people is former BYU tight end Fotu Katoa, who has been helping out Te’o since the beginning. Through the years Katoa has both witnessed and taken part in the enormous amount of work and selfless dedication required to run the camp.
“It’s all about love and that’s the best quality Alema has,” Katoa said. “He truly has a genuine love for all the kids who attend his camp and sincerely wants all of them to succeed and to live quality lives. All of us who help out want that and it’s why we keep showing up every year and putting in a lot of time to make this the best experience possible for those who attend.”
"We have a lot of experience to share with these kids and we feel it's our duty to share that experience," Te'o added. "We want them to understand that they can succeed in the pursuit of a top education, that an average student, like myself, can get a degree and even a master's degree and live successful and fulfilling lives. That's our goal every year and it will continue to be our main goal."
Email: email@example.com Twitter: @BrandonCGurney
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company