The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame unveiled its Class of 2017 Tuesday. Five inductees were selected from a list of 18 finalists.
This year’s inductees include Junior Ah You (Samoan ancestry), Riki Ellison (Māori Ancestry), Chris Naeole (Hawaiian ancestry), Ma’a Tanuvasa (Samoan ancestry) as player inductees and John Manumaleuna (Samoan ancestry) as a contributor.
“The Class of 2017 has won five Super Bowls, two Grey Cups and a College Football National Championship,” said Jesse Sapolu, Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Co-Founder and Chairman. “They represent the very best of our Polynesian people.”
The inductees were chosen by a selection committee composed of past head football coaches Dick Tomey (Chairman), LaVell Edwards, Ron McBride and Dick Vermeil, ESPN SportsCenter anchor Neil Everett, NFL player personnel expert Gil Brandt, past NFLPA president Kevin Mawae (Polynesian Football HOF Inaugural Inductee) and Hawai’i sportscaster Robert Kekaula.
“On behalf of the Selection Committee, I congratulate this outstanding Class,” said Dick Tomey, Selection Committee Chairman. “Their accomplishments on and off the field are truly worthy of this recognition.”
The Class of 2017 will be honored during the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend, to be held on January 21 & 22, 2017 in Oahu, Hawai`i. The Polynesian Pro and College Football Player of Year honorees will be announced later in the year.
Inductees will also be recognized at the inaugural Polynesian Bowl, a premier senior high school all-star football game featuring the world’s elite players of Polynesian heritage and other ancestries. For more information about the game, visit www.PolynesianBowl.com.
Special thanks to these sponsors for making the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame one of the premier Polynesian cultural gatherings in the world: Hawaiian Airlines, the “Official Airline of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame,” Hawai`i Tourism Authority, NFL, Polynesian Cultural Center, Weil & Associates, Tihati Productions, Coca-Cola Bottling of Hawai`i, Kyoya Company, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and the Princess Kaiulani, the “Official Hotel of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame.”
JUNIOR AH YOU (Player)
Samoan Ancestry … Defensive Line … Arizona State University … 3x All-WAC Selection … Selected by Patriots in the 17th Round, 425th player overall (1972 NFL Draft) … 13 Seasons … Montreal Alouettes (1972–81) … Chicago Blitz (1983) … New Orleans Breakers (1984) … Arizona Outlaws (1985) … 2x CFL All-Star (1976, 1979) … 2x Grey Cup Champion (1974, 1977) … Grey Cup MVP (1974) … Arizona State Athletics and Canadian Football League Hall of Fame Inductee …Born December 30, 1948 in Sale Miu, American Samoa.
RIKI MORGAN ELLISON (Player)
Māori Ancestry … Linebacker … University of Southern California … 2x Rose Bowl Champion (1979, 1980) … College Football National Champion (1978) … Selected by 49ers in the 5th round, 117th player overall (1983 NFL Draft) … 9 Seasons … San Francisco 49ers (1983–89) … Los Angeles Raiders (1990–92) … 3x Super Bowl Champion (XIX, XXIII, XXIV) … First player from New Zealand and of Māori Ancestry to play in the NFL and win a Super Bowl … Born August 15, 1960 in Christchurch, New Zealand.
CHRISTOPHER KEALOHA NAEOLE (Player)
Hawaiian Ancestry … Offensive Line … University of Colorado … Consensus All-American (1996) … 2x All-Big 12 Selection (1995, 1996) … Selected by Saints in the 1st Round, 10th player overall (1997 NFL Draft), one of the highest Polynesians ever selected … 11 Seasons … New Orleans Saints (1997–2001) … Jacksonville Jaguars (2002–09) … Missed only one game in his 11 NFL seasons, and started 150 of 154 games … Born December 25, 1974 in Kailua, Hawai’i.
MA’A TANUVASA (Player)
Samoan Ancestry … Defensive End … University of Hawai`i … WAC Champion (1992) … First-Team All-WAC Selection (1992) … Selected by Rams in the 8th Round, 209th player overall (1995 NFL Draft) … 8 Seasons … L.A. Rams (1993) … Pittsburgh Steelers (1994) … Denver Broncos (1995–2000) … San Diego Chargers (2001) … Atlanta Falcons (2002) … 2x Super Bowl Champion (XXXII, XXXIII) … Broncos Sack Leader (1998, 1999) … Hawai`i Sports Hall of Fame Inductee … Born November 6, 1970 in Nu’uuli, American Samoa.
JOHN MANAMALEUNA (Contributor)
Samoan Ancestry … Staunch advocate and mentor for Polynesian youth and families as they migrated into the California communities … A great proponent of Education and responsible citizenry … He encouraged football and sports as a path to a better life for Polynesian kids … Founded Samoan Athletes in Action, which became the Big John Foundation shortly after his passing … Born March 13, 1950 in American Samoa … Died in 1980 at the age of 31.
ABOUT THE POLYNESIAN FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame honors Polynesia’s greatest players, coaches and contributors. It also serves as a resource for Polynesian football history, provides academic scholarships and supports educational programs for Polynesian youth. Its permanent home is located at the Polynesian Cultural Center (Laie on O’ahu’s North Shore) and was established in 2013 by Super Bowl Champions Jesse Sapolu and Ma’a Tanuvasa. Other board members include Troy Polamalu, Vai Sikahema, June Jones and Reno Mahe. For more information, visit www.PolynesianFootballHOF.org.