Polynesian American football stars are working towards a gridiron academy to give young Pacific players a chance to progress in the sport.
A gridiron bootcamp was held in Auckland on Saturday by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame stars: Jack "The Throwin' Samoan" Thompson former Cincinnati Bengal's quarterback, Manase Jesse Sapolu former San Francisco 49ers and Ma'a Tanuvasa former Denver Broncos player.
Polynesian Football Hall of Fame training in Auckland. Photo/ Supplied.
Polynesian Football Hall of Fame training in Auckland. Photo: North Harbour Pride American Football Club.
Thompson says the turn-out was great and the amount of talent in New Zealand took him by surprise.
"To see the raw talent here was a pleasant surprise," he says. "Also the core of the coaching staff here is a great starting point."
The NFL stars are wanting to elevate the gridiron sport in New Zealand in hopes young players will get scholarships to study in the USA.
Sapolu says New Zealand is perfect as it has the number one rugby team in the world.
"The plan is to work with the coaches here and start spreading the game because the academic opportunities that we offer in America is the best," he says.
He says most of the scholarships awarded to Polynesians are worth more than $200,000 for education.
"It's not only an opportunity for us to spread the game but also for the parents to see their kids get an education, provide an opportunity for them to get off the streets."
Thompson says even if people don't make it into the NFL, they'll get to walk away with a degree.
The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame will be back in New Zealand next year to continue training until they establish a gridiron academy.
"New Zealand could be the next hot bed for gridiron in America," says Thompson.
Jack Thompson, Brian Sagala from Radio 531pi and Manase Jesse Sapolu.