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.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rams hold off 49ers for wild 41-39 win

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rams hold off 49ers for wild 41-39 win

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Coach Sean McVay walked into the postgame news conference and immediately asked, "Anyone have a beer?"

He probably wasn't the only person who wanted a drink after watching a surprisingly thrilling Thursday night shootout between his Rams and the San Francisco 49ers that wasn't decided until Los Angeles prevented a potential game-tying 2-point try and then delivered a rare defensive stop after blowing the onside kick in a 41-39 victory.

"We talk about mentally tough, be your best regardless of the circumstance," McVay said. "I thought the players did that. They found a way in spite of some of the ups and the downs to come away with the win."

While the defense came up big late, it was the offense that carried the day for the Rams (2-1), who have gone from the lowest-scoring team in the NFL a year ago to a dynamic one through three games under McVay.

Jared Goff threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns, Todd Gurley ran for 113 yards and scored three TDs and Robert Woods (108) and Sammy Watkins (106) each topped the 100-yard mark receiving in Los Angeles' second 40-point performance of the season. The Rams have 107 points in all so far, the second-most in franchise history after three games to the 119 by "The Greatest Show on Turf" squad in 2000.

"Since I've been here we haven't been able to do that," Gurley said. "Hopefully we can keep putting points together, keep working together and keep learning from this. I think we left a lot more points off the board."

This win didn't come easy as the Rams nearly blew a 15-point lead, giving up two late touchdowns, fumbling a kickoff return and failing to recover an onside kick. But Los Angeles managed to stop a potential game-tying 2-point conversion on a deflection by Troy Hill and then used an offensive pass interference penalty against Trent Taylor and a fourth-down sack by Aaron Donald to stop the Niners after the onside kick.

The 49ers (0-3) scored five touchdowns after failing to get any the first two weeks but still came up short in part because a missed extra point by Robbie Gould forced them to try for 2 on their late touchdown.

"I just rushed it, I missed it, I made a mistake," Gould said. "Obviously, I wish I didn't do that, or we'd probably be playing in overtime right now.""

This time it was a tired defense that hurt San Francisco. After facing 79 plays in a 12-9 loss at Seattle on Sunday, the 49ers appeared to run out of gas on the short week as Goff frequently had wide-open receivers, especially on third down.

The Rams were 8 for 12 on third down, including all three of Goff's touchdown passes.

The Rams needed all that offense on a night where Brian Hoyer threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score.

QUICK START: The Rams took just 12 seconds to get on the board as Nickell Robey-Coleman intercepted Hoyer on the first play from scrimmage and returned it to the 3-yard line. Gurley ran it in on the next play to give the Rams a 7-0 lead.

"I just told him to start over," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Got to go back to work. We didn't change anything, went right on with the script. But it was a tough way to start out."

DROUGHT BUSTER: The 49ers came into the game without a touchdown on the season but broke through in the first quarter with some help from the Rams. After Blake Countess jumped offside on a punt, the Niners took advantage of the second opportunity and drove to score on Hoyer's 9-yard run 126:43 into the season. That was the longest it took a team to score its first TD since 2006 when both Tampa Bay (143:03) and Oakland (127:10) took more time.

FOURTH DOWN CALLS: Both teams drove to the opposing 1 on their opening drives of the second half with help from a Willie Mays-style basket catch by Watkins and a perfect toe drag on the sideline by San Francisco's Pierre Garcon. But the Rams opted to kick a short field goal, while the 49ers went for it and converted on Carlos Hyde's 1-yard run that cut Los Angeles' lead to 27-20. Hyde added a second 1-yard run on fourth down in the fourth quarter.

INJURIES: Rams S Lamarcus Joyner left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury. ... Los Angeles C John Sullivan injured his groin in the second half and Watkins and Tavon Austin left with concussions. ... 49ers S Jaquiski Tartt (concussion), FB Kyle Juszczyk (neck), DL Tank Carradine (ankle) and LB Brock Coyle (concussion) all left with injuries in the second half.

UP NEXT: The Rams travel to Dallas on Oct. 1. The 49ers visit Arizona.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is there a blueprint to beat the Patriots?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is there a blueprint to beat the Patriots?

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST.

0:41 - Tom E. Curran breaks down the ‘blueprint’ to beat the Patriots and if the Texans have the talent to do it.

5:27 - Michael Holley and Kayce Smith discuss Kyrie Irving’s comments that he made on Early Edition about going back to Cleveland for the opening game. 

9:52 - We take a listen to what Malcolm Butler had to say about his role on the team and discuss how the cornerback keeps saying all the right things. 

15:18 - Michael McCann, Legal Analyst for Sports Illustrated joins BST to talk about Aaron Hernandez’s brain found to have CTE and his family now suing the NFL and the Patriots.