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Late Rockne Freitas remembered as a pioneer on and off the football field

The islands continue to mourn the loss of Rockne Freitas, a pioneer for Polynesian football players with a long successful career in the NFL.
Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 6:57 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 9, 2022 at 10:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The islands continue to mourn the loss of Rockne Freitas, a pioneer for Polynesian football players with a long successful career in the NFL, followed by a stellar career as an administrator in education, leaving a legacy that transcended the gridiron.

“Coming from such a small island, when he played there weren’t many Polynesian players in the NFL.” Polynesian Football Hall of Fame co-founder Ma’a Tanuvasa told Hawaii News Now. “That gave hope to a lot of us guys growing up, knowing that you know Rockne was one of the very first.”

Freitas played prep football at Kamehameha Schools before a stellar collegiate career at Oregon State.

His play for the Beavers earned him a third round selection in the NFL Draft, becoming one of the first Polynesian players to make it to the league, playing 11 years in the pros with two all-pro selections and a trip to the Pro Bowl.

His playing career getting him enshrined into the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

“He is the epitome of a Polynesian football Hall of Famer and not just for Polynesians, just in the NFL by itself.” Tanuvasa said. “Just to see a guy to do that and I remember his induction speech at the Polynesian football Hall of Fame at the Polynesian cultural center and all he kept talking about was education.”

After Freitas hung up the pads, he began an illustrious 23 year career in higher education, serving as an administrator in multiple roles for the University of Hawaii system.

“Learning is best option on earth.” Freitas said in his 2016 Polynesian Football Hall of Fame induction speech. “Education equals solutions worldwide.”

He most notably served as the UH’s associate Athletics Director where he was a pivotal piece in the Rainbow Warriors Football team’s move from the WAC to the Mountain West Conference.

He retired in 2015 as the Chancellor of the University of Hawaii at West Oahu.

In a statement, UH president David Lassner says, “Rockne’s heart was as big as the rest of him, regardless of his job, he was always ready to step in and help with whatever needed doing. Among his many, many contributions was his leadership in establishing the Hawaiʻi Papa O Ke Ao (Hawaiʻi Foundation of Enlightenment/Knowledge) initiative to help the University of Hawaiʻi on our path to become a model Indigenous-serving institution of higher education. The university extends our deepest condolences to Ala and the entire Freitas family as well as all who knew and loved Rockne.”

Despite his many accolades on and and off the field, he will be remembered for how he lived his life, a way only he can explain.

“Live simply, love immensely, care deeply and speak kindly.”

Rockne Freitas was 76 years old.

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