By Jason Tang
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (KHNL) -- It used to be a secret, but that secret is out. American Samoa is fertile grounds for football recruiting. And on a recent trip to Pago Pago, we find out exactly what drives these young men to succeed, and reveal what kind of challenges they face.
On a sweltering Saturday afternoon in American Samoa, most beaches are empty. That's because most kids are practicing the game they seemingly were born to play.
"The one thing that I think about the Samoan kids that they like about football is the contact, just being able to hit somebody and the physical aspect about football is what they really like and what draws them to the game," said Jason Magalei, Tafuna football head coach.
Another enticement is the lifestyle football can provide if they make it to the NFL, and the odds are in their favor. It's been estimated that a Samoan boy is 40 times more likely to play in the NFL than a boy growing up on the mainland.
"It's the opportunity these kids are looking for to get a better life, opportunity for their families and the most important thing to get that education," said Suaesepooch Taase, Fagatitua football head coach.
In 2007, eight players from American Samoa played in the NFL - and that's coming from an island of fewer than 60,000 people - statistics which are practically unheard of. However, the numbers could be higher, but in the past, many high school athletes couldn't make it into college because of poor SAT scores.
"We have to try and break it to them that there's something before football and that's academic, and that's important, most of these kids have tremendous skills but grading wise, but we've made progress as slow as it may be."
"They always say school comes first, in everything school comes first, if you want to play college football you gotta make it through the SAT, the SAT is all about school, they always tell us keep your head in school," said Tafuna senior Gene Min.
Good advice to follow, especially because Warrior head coach Greg McMackin is planning on at least two recruiting trips to the south pacific in the near future.
"I just love the culture, and I want to get down and be a part of it and I'm looking forward to that and just like we want Hawaii players here, we want Samoan players also," said McMackin.
Senior guard Keith Ahsoon, a native of American Samoa, has these words of encouragement.
"For you guys down in Samoa man, do your thing 'cause Coach Mack is coming down, show them how we do it down there, so he's gonna treat you good if you just do your school work, that's the most important thing," said Ahsoon.
The SAT isn't the only challenge facing young Samoan football players.
There's also a lack of resources.
However, help is on the way.