By Jason Tang
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (KHNL) -- Keith AhSoon is a starting offensive lineman for the defending WAC champion UH Warriors, yet growing up you'd never guess he'd be here, since he got a late start learning the game.
"I started playing football in high school stuff, I never knew the game of football you know, I never even knew it existed. All I played back then was cricket, that's all there was in Samoa," said AhSoon.
But that's all about to change. Beginning this summer, American Samoa's first Pop Warner league will get underway thanks to financial and educational resources from USA football.
"We're excited. We're enthusiastic about it and for it to be here in American Samoa, especially the US football program. You can see that's how the State side comes about. It's the flow of their youth program, that's why there's a lot of talent and kids that make it to the professional level and that's what we're trying to do here in American Samoa," said Samoa Samoa, athletics director for the Department of Education in American Samoa.
However, with fewer than 60,000 residents, American Samoa already boasts the highest number of football players per capita playing both at the collegiate level and in the NFL. And those numbers will almost certainly rise with the addition of the new youth league.
"Just having a Pop Warner league would help get those skills implemented and so forth, that way when they get to the JV it's just polish and refine the skills they learned in Pop Warner," said Tafuna High School football coach Jason Magalei.
"If the basics are taught at an early age we can prevent more injuries and also give them a much better opportunity with the talent the have," added Fagatitua High School football coach Suaesepooch Taase.
"Ttrust me, maybe in the future, who knows, maybe the Samoans will draft a team for their own and play and stuff," said Tafuna senior Gene Min.
And maybe Hawai'i can land more guys just like Keith AhSoon.
"I think everybody's gonna love it especially the little kids and it'll be good for them," said AhSoon.
Warrior head coach Greg McMackin says he's also planning trips to the south pacific to recruit more athletes.
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