This is a Blog that will be updated regularly for the benefit of the readers who follow Le Malae and our sports fans who are interested in the lives of the 4 Samoan Athletes who came to the USA on a belief that they would be accepted into a College in the USA to play football and also gain an education. The blog will describe all the activities which they are going through and those who they met along the way. Its a journey which we are documenting with this blog and will include pictures, video, interesting commentary as well as good lessons for those who want to pursue their dreams.
The 4 athletes are Paulo Stancil, Lance Leota, Zachariah Betham, and Perry Afato. These young men are all from the country of Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) an independent nation in the South Pacific where the main sport is Rugby, not American Football. But these four young men were intrigued by the sport of American Football while in Samoa and were introduced to the game by different people.
Lance Leota actually went to American Samoa, which is less than 8 hours away by boat, an hour away by plane, and played football for the Leone High School Lions. He played for a year and was highly recruited by colleges but due to his status as a non American he was unable to pursue the dream further.
Perry Afato was actually living in Seattle, Washington for a while, his parents were pastors for the Voice of Christ church in Seattle. However, they were called to serve in New Zealand and so he moved back to Samoa and lived there without really playing the game.
Zachariah Betham was introduced to the game through an organization that was created by certain individuals who wanted to promote American Football in Samoa. They started with a fundraising effort that raised quite a bit of money and then the primary individual took off with the money. So that dampened the enthusiasm of the parents and the youths who were a part of this program. Zach had been a part of the top Rugby squads for under 18 and under 20 year olds coming out of Samoa and New Zealand.
Paul Stancil was a Rugby player in Samoa. He also spent time in Seattle, WA but never remained there long enough to get any football experience. He moved back to Samoa and was a rugby player and helped with his family business which was running a hotel.
They all met Richard Brown, an ex NFL player who lived with his family in Samoa, around the same time and began training with him. This training was designed to give them some knowledge and skill in the game of football. Richard Brown is a chief from the village of Vaimoso. His title is Leapai. But although he has immersed himself in the Samoan culture Richard grew up mostly in Huntington Beach, Orange County, CA. He attended High School in Westminster and then was recruited by San Diego State to play linebacker. He was drafted by the Rams in 1986 and played over 12 years in "the league". After he retired he moved back to Samoa and started his life there with a new wife and new goal of bringing the sport of American football to the youngsters of Samoa.
Samoa and American Samoa are basically the same country in terms of the people who live there. They are the same race, speak the same language and practice the same culture. The only difference is Samoa was administered by Germany then New Zealand before becoming independent in 1962. American Samoa became a US territory in the early 1900s and has remained so til today. American Samoa has all the benefits of American life including American Football and alot of interest from College Scouts who come to this small island of less than 80,000 people every year to select the best High School players to play for their schools. This is a blessing for the people of American Samoa and many of these athletes go on to play professionally and benefit their families. It is believed that a Samoan has 50% more chance of making it into the NFL than any other race. That is why American Samoa has become known as the place to go for top football players.
Samoa on the other hand is independent and were affiliated more with New Zealand than the USA so they play rugby which is also a very physical sport but the opportunities to play professionally are not as substantial as the opportunities for those who make it to the NFL. Samoa as small as it is is ranked in the top 10 world wide in Rugby. Its team has competed successfully with nations of 10 million people or more and regularly beat them. The number of Samoans living in independent Samoa is around 190,000. So there are more people living in Samoa but they are not being recruited by American Colleges because they do not play American Football. This is a travesty because they are as big, as fast and as physical as their counterparts in American Samoa. All that is missing is the basic knowledge of American football.
This is where Richard Leapai came into the picture with his program of training athletes in Samoa how to play the game and he has already sent a number of players to various schools throughout the USA where they are learning and playing the game of American Football. But this time Richard took a risk and sent 4 players all together to play College Football. Not knowing what to expect, they all took a leap of faith and flew to California and began the search for a school and a football program that would take them and play them in their football program. This is the story of the 4 Samoan Athletes from Samoa who came to America to find their dream.