The islands that make up American Samoa are closer to Australia than they are to Hawaii.
Just a blip on the Atlas, American Samoa has left a mark on the NFL by turning out NFL-caliber players on the regular.
A 2010 60 Minutes report says all you need to know: From an island of just 65,000 people, there are more than 30 players of Samoan descent in the NFL and over 200 playing Division I college ball. That's like 30 current NFL players coming out of Sparks, Nev., or Gastonia, N.C.
Recently signed Patriots defensive endtackle Jonathan Fanene is just one of them and it certainly means something to represent his homeland.
A lot of pride, he said. From American Samoa, a small little island, but Im so proud of it. Not just me, theres a couple guys that represent our island perfectly.
The real question, though, is why? What is it about this little place a place that thrives mostly off tuna fish canning that allows for NFL success? The answer, according to Fanene, is pretty simple.
Because they want it more.
Growing up in American Samoa is no walk in the park. Children learn at a young age that it takes hard work to be successful and to make life livable there. Count that as one reason why you see American Samoan players like Fanene and Pittsburghs Troy Polamalu, make it in the league.
The lifestyle we have back home is pretty much like a workout for us (laughs), Fanene said. Its a habit. You just wake up and do a lot of chores before we go to school. Our parents arent going to do the chores for us, so we have to get up and do it for them, and I believe thats why were more, like how can I say this more like strongly outside, like outside working. Playing in the NFL is a hard job.
Without trying to put words in Fanenes mouth, it creates a work ethic necessarily for success in the NFL. His parents, David and Anna Maria Fanene, instilled that in each and every one of Fanenes 12 siblings (Fanene is the second oldest To be the second oldest, I have to do a lot. My parents expect me to do a lot of chores and be the leader of the family.), who range in age from 32 to 13.
You can learn more about Fanenes family and homeland by watching the 60 Minutes feature something Fanene is grateful for.
It was a blessing. I didnt expect 60 Minutes, but my dad called me the next day and told me about the program and he told me, Be ready, theres going to be someone here next week, to talk to me about NFL players from American Samoa. I was surprised. Ive been blessed to do everything right and go back home and help my family, my parents. Not just that, but to be an example to the kids back home.
With the money earned from the NFL, Fanene built a beautiful home for his family.
Yeah, that house was for my parents, he said. Im happy I did something for them because they did a lot for me.
Its obvious that Fanenes family values are strong, and even though his new home is 7,300-plus miles away from his old, he takes everything hes learned from there with him.
Workout was intense today, he said on Tuesday, his first words to the media. It was pretty good today.
Just like old times.