Fanene's heritage key to NFL success

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Fanene's heritage key to NFL success

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.

Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

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Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

FOXBORO -- After starting the offseason "five weeks behind," as Bill Belichick put it, the Patriots have caught up. 

"I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now," he said before Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium. "I think it’s being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing.

"I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule on. It’s the catching up on all the spring projects, draft and free agency. It’s the initial part of it."

Belichick made headlines on the morning after winning his fifth Lombardi Trophy with the Patriots when he said, "As of today, and as great as today feels and as great as today is, in all honesty we're five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in the league. Fortunately we have a great personnel staff

"Look, in a couple weeks we're going to be looking at the combine, obviously the draft, all-star games have already occurred, and in a month we're into free agency, not to mention all the internal Patriots players (whose) contracts are up and we're going to have to work with in some form or fashion like every team in the league does."

Leaning on evaluations of players that began in the build-up to previous drafts, Belichick and his staff opted to trade away some of this year's draft capital for veterans like Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen. They also gave up their fifth-rounder to sign restricted free agent Mike Gillislee.

Before heading out to the team's third practice of the week -- the first week the Patriots were allowed to introduce helmets and run offense versus defense periods -- Belichick said that part of his focus will be spent on finding out how those players he picked up this offseason are progressing.

"Yeah, that’s definitely part of it," he said. "Seeing the new players, how they’re doing and also how they’re doing relevant to the rest of the other players that I’m a little more familiar with. Again, each year is a new year, so even though we’ve seen some of these guys multiple years, it’s still starting all over again, seeing where they are, how they’re progressing in their training and preparation for the season."