Shootz: Chicago Bears Getting Used to a Little Island Flavor
Center Olin Kreutz has been a staple in the Chicago Bears organization since the team drafted him out of Washington St. 12 years ago. Kreutz, a leader both on the field and in the locker room, leads by example through hard work and determination. He keeps players in line and commands respect from not only his teammates, but opposing players as well.
Kreutz was raised and played high school football in Hawaii for St. Louis High, a team consistently playing for the island title, where he was all-state in both football and wrestling. Hawaii was his kickoff point for a prosperous and productive NFL career.
And Kreutz isn't the only one to bring the island madness to the team.
The Bears selected safety Al Afalava in the sixth round of the 2009 draft. Afalava grew up in Laie, located on the north shore of Oahu, and played high school for the Kahuku Red Raiders, a perennial powerhouse, before moving on to Oregon St.
If you look closely, there are quite a few connections to the pacific islands throughout the Bears roster:
Undrafted free agents Will Ta'ufo'ou (FB from Cal) and Johan Asiata (OG from UNLV) are both in contention for roster spots. Asiata, originally from New Zealand, actually grew up in Hawaii.
Reserve defensive tackle Matt Toeaina played high school football on the tiny island of American Samoa, which is located east of Fiji and North of Tonga before he moved on to play college ball at the University of Oregon.
Newly acquired linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa played for the University of Hawaii for four years. He made first team all WAC his senior year and was drafted in the second round of the 2003 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams.
The Bears even have had a couple Hawaii players represented on the practice squad and in training camp. Safety Leonard Peters, also a Kahuku graduate, was on the Bears practice squad for the 2007 season. And former UH standout wide receiver Ryan Grice-Mullens was added to the Bears roster last season in training camp to add some depth, but failed to make the final cut.
And it doesn't end there, lets kick it back a little further.
Anyone remember tight end Gabe Reid? He played four years for the Bears from 2003 through 2006 and recorded a total of seven receptions—okay, not exactly stellar numbers but Reid was also a product of American Samoa and was a competent third stringer for the team.
And if you want to go old-school, how about Lakei Heimuli? Heimuli was a running back out of BYU who grew up in Tonga and played one season for the 1987 Chicago Bears. He only made it into three games that year, but to be fair, his numbers weren't terrible: 34 carries for 128 yards (for a 3.8 average), and five receptions for 51 yards and one lone touchdown.
So really, this island theme from the Bears is not a new one. And judging from recent trends, look for more and more of these Polynesian products to follow in the footsteps of Kreutz, Pisa, Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu, and Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
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