One of the coolest things about the Polynesian Bowl is that it is not restricted to Polynesian players.
Yes, instead, it’s going to be 75 percent Polynesian players and 25 percent others. It’s a cultural exchange. It’s a melting pot of a football game.
And it’s going to be played in one of the biggest melting pots in the world, Hawaii.
Yes, the Japanese, the Samoans, the Tongans, the Filipinos, the caucasians, the mainlanders, the Portuguese, the Chinese, the native Hawaiians and whoever else has wanted to say that this place many consider a paradise is their home, have — FOR THE MOST PART – blended together and got along. It’s Hawaii, and even President Barack Obama has tried to tell the rest of the world that it’s a lot easier here for people of color and non-color to accept each other. What a concept!
Well, this All-Star football game sponsored by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame will be a showcase for that togetherness. On Thursday at Aloha Stadium, the organizers of the Polynesian Bowl held a press conference right there on the stadium field to kick off what they hope will be an annual gathering.
The game itself will be held Jan. 21, 2017, at Aloha Stadium, and it has the backing of many prominent names (Poly and non-Poly), including former University of Hawaii head coach June Jones, former San Francisco 49ers center Jesse Sapolu, former UH assistant and NFL player Rich Miano, former Denver Broncos linebacker Ma‘a Tanuvasa, former Pittsburgh Steelers star safety Troy Polamalu, and current Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.
At the press conference, Sapolu and Tanuvasa rattled off the names of the players who have already committed to the first annual Polynesian Bowl. And the first player any fan in Hawaii considers a Poly star, Tua Tagovailoa — the Saint Louis star quarterback who has committed to Alabama — is in.
Also in from Hawaii: Tua’s cousin, Kapolei defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Saint Louis linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia, Punahou defensive lineman Miki Suguturaga, Kapaa offensive tackle Mo Unutoa, Kahuku defensive end Aliki Vimahi, and Leilehua safety Charles Watson.
And then there’s that mainland talent on its way. All told, there are 17 players rated as top prospects by at least one of the four scouting sites rankings — ESPN 300, 24/7 sports, Rivals.com, and Scout 300.
The commitments so far are from 12 states — located mostly in the West — and American Samoa. There are players from the Midwest (Illinois and Michigan) who are also committed.
Interestingly, any player picked to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State first or second teams this year will get a bid to the game — Poly or not.
Two players from national No. 1 Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas — No. 17 Kahuku’s opponent in Nevada on Saturday — will be playing in the game: running back Biaggio Ali-Walsh and wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey.
Former Saint Louis, University of Washington and Chicago Bears standout Olin Kreutz and former NFL quarterback Jack Thompson will serve as honorary head coaches.
Mariota, a former Saint Louis and Oregon star, will serve as an honorary team captain along with Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Robbie Stanley.
Organizers are hoping the game will become an elite attraction for high school football seniors through the years.
“I’m excited for it,” Kapolei’s Tagovailoa-Amosa said. “When coach Ma‘a (Tanuvasa) named all the players coming down, I was thinking, ‘This is a good chance to compete with guys who are nationally ranked and be in that type of atmosphere. All I know now is compete … compete.”
Added Unotoa: “This is really special. It’s an honor to be invited to the first Polynesian Bowl. I want to thank coach Rich Miano and all the committee for inviting me. It’s an honor.”