Formation of a Polynesian Football Hall of Fame is being announced Wednesday morning, and there will be ample future candidates from nearby college programs. Jesse Sapolu, the longtime offensive-line standout with the 49ers, and former Denver Broncos defensive lineman Ma’a Tanuvasa are credited with brainstorming the idea, which will become reality with the first induction ceremony next Jan. 23 the week before the NFL Pro Bowl in Honolulu. The HOF website is linked here.
Joining Sapolu and Tanuvasa on the board of directors are Pittsburgh Steelers all-pro safety Troy Polamalu; Southern Methodist coach June Jones; Vai Sikahema, first Tongan to play in the NFL (as a running back/returner) and Reno Mahe, former Brigham Young running back.
Members of the board of directors aren’t eligible for induction the first year, but no doubt some of those will be shortly headed in. Off the top of my head, you can figure a couple of former University of Washington players to get top consideration: Marques Tuiasosopo, who led the 2000 Huskies to the Rose Bowl and is now a member of the UW staff, and before him, Olin Kreutz, the center from Honolulu, who had a long career with the Chicago Bears.
Jack Thompson, the ex-Washington State quarterback, is another obvious candidate. After setting numerous passing records with the Cougars, he became the No. 3 pick in the 1979 draft to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“It’s a wonderful effort,” Thompson said. “We have a hell of a legacy when it comes to football, coming from a bunch of islands in the Pacific Ocean. We don’t take a back seat to any particular culture on a per capita basis, for sure.”
University of Washington has had a fairly consistent presence in Hawaii and the West Coast recruiting Polynesian players, and one of the offensive-line mainstays of its 1991 national champions was Siupeli Malamala. Former head coach Jim Lambright had a hand in recruiting Kreutz and used to joke that he would carve out Hawaiian recruiting trips for himself.
Washington State’s success with Polynesians hasn’t been as consistent. But recently, WSU assistant coach Joe Salave’a has helped pull in several Polynesian defensive prospects like Ioane Gauta, Destiny Vaeao and Robert Barber.