A 3 a.m. flight was no problem for Ezra Vaoifi and his family, because the final destination was Tustin, Calif., where the third-annual Polynesian All-American Bowl is going to be played at 2 p.m. (CST) Saturday.
“I'd have hitch-hiked if I'd have had to, to get out there,” said Vaoifi, a Class 5 all-state selection this season for the Fort Osage Indians. “It's such an honor to be asked to compete in an event like that. There was no way I was going to miss it.”
Vaoifi's teammate, Tauai Tuala, an all-state defensive lineman who had 71 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and five sacks, also is playing in the game.
“It will be great sharing this experience with Tauai,” Vaoifi said.
The Polynesian All-American Bowl features 70 players of Polynesian descent from across the United States, including the South Pacific.
“The best flight left at 3 a.m. Wednesday and me, my mom and dad and family are all making the trip,” said Vaoifi, who, like Tuala, is Samoan. “This is something you want to share with your family, and we are fortunate that we all can go.”
The event is designed to give the athlete an experience that includes cultural dance, fellowship, community outreach, life skills education, along with football training.
“I was at BYU working out and think someone from the game saw me and contacted me about playing in the game,” said Vaoifi, who rushed for 2,034 yards and scored 25 touchdowns in his senior season. “I've been working out hard. Who knows, someone could see me in this game and offer me some kind of scholarship.”
Right now, Vaoifi plans on taking his two-year mission trip for his church and then returning to possibly play football at BYU or a junior college.
“It's all in God's hands,” Vaoifi said. “I'm just excited about playing in my last football game. And from what I've heard, they really do it right.”
The coaching staff consists of former NFL and collegiate athletes. Jack “The Throwin' Samoan” Thompson, who attended Washington State and was the third overall pick in the 1979 draft by Cincinnati, and Ma'a Tanuvasa, who graduated from Hawaii and won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos, are the head coaches for the game just south of Los Angeles.