The Army football program has always been able to recruit nationally, and it was very apparent with the 2012 recruiting class that there would be no demographic limitations.
As such, this year's class picked up where the 2011 class left off. And you might ask where specifically is that? Our response would be to note the ability of Head Coach Rich Ellerson and his staff to recruit several top tier players from what is commonly know as the "Polynesian Triangle" or those players that have connected family roots to that region.
To understand this region's deep history and culture, one must understand the greater Polynesian phenomenon. Hawai'i is at the apex of the Polynesian Triangle, a region of the Pacific Ocean anchored by three island groups: Hawai'i, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Aotearoa (New Zealand).
The many island cultures within the Polynesian Triangle share a similar proto-Malayo-Polynesian language used in Southeast Asia 5000 years ago.
Furthermore, Polynesians share identical cultural traditions, arts, religion, and sciences. According to anthropologists, all Polynesians are related to a single proto-culture established in the South Pacific by migrant Malayo people. The eight main Polynesian cultures are from: • Aotearoa • Fiji • Hawai'i • Rapa Nui • Marquesas • Sa ̄moa • Tahiti • Tonga.
In 2011, the Black Knights were able to receive the commitment of outstanding defensive tackle, Tala Atimalala (TJ), who talked about his immediate connection with teammate/defensive end Jonas Niusulu, who is from Barstow (Cali.), but has Samoan roots, where both of his parents are full Somoans.
"When we arrived at the prep school on R-Day (2011), it only took us that first day to connect right off the bat," says Atimalala, who has become a leader within the culture of an institution (West Point) that develops leaders. The 6-foot-0, 270 pound tackle, who just lights up the room, but it's not just the Polynesian guys that swarm to him, but it's everyone.
"A lot of our teammates know that Samoan players are big ... big mean guys, but when they met us, well we're big and look mean however deep inside we're happy and funny guys," adds the one everyone calls TJ, who has kept in touch with a couple of current incoming frosh with the Polynesian Triangle connection.
"I keep in touch with Lofi Tamasese," says Atimalala. "Him and Ammon Tuimaunei are big guys and when they were here on their official visit, I let them to know what to expect down at the prep school."
Atimalala is from Las Vegas (Nev.), but his father is full Samoan, whereby according to the soon to be frosh defensive tackle, his mother is half Samoan.
Then you have another prepster in lineman Jesse Tuivaiave (Tui'), who is from the state of Washington and also has the Samoan linage.
Fast forward to the 2012 class and you have big offensive lineman, Tamasese; stalwart defensive tackle, Tuimaunei (Tui'); linebacker Kyle Fleming and safety Tim Kamana.
Like Atimalala, hard hitting safety Tim Kamana, who is from Hawai'i or more specifically from the island of O'ahu is looking forward to the cultural connection once he hits the West Point campus this summer. But yet he knows that his ultimate destination is to become a cadet and Black Knight football player.
"Yes, it's a good feeling to have other Polynesian player there, but even with our heritage, we all were not brought up the same way ... although there are players like Kyle Fleming who is from the island is real good," shared Kamana. "Actually some of the old graduates from West Point have a dinner every year and they are putting in on for 16th of March, so we both (Fleming) got invited to that. He'll be coming down here, so I will be able to talk to him in person."
For the 6-foot-2, 275 pound Tuimaunei, his Somoan roots derived from his father, who according to Tuimaunei, is 100% Somoan.
"I have been in touch with Lofi Tamasese lately, but we are talking and connecting with all of our future teammates, especially on Facebook, where I am friends with almost all the commits for our class," explains Tuimaunei. "But it is reassuring that there are other people from the island background that will be going to West Point."
One thing is certain, Tuimaunei knows that he has to physically ready to endure the transition from high school to college. "I have a workout class 6th period and then after school I do my road work," he declares.
Then you have offensive lineman Lofi Tamasese, where both of his parents are from Sa ̄moa. However, the 6-foot-2, 290 pounder out of San Fransico (Cali.) Jefferson High School had narrowed his choice of schools, down to two .... Army and California out of the Pac-12, before committing to the Black Knights.
"That's another reason I really like Army so much is when I went on my official visit I met a lot of the kids, where there were 14 of us there," says Tamasese, who elaborates on the connection with current and future Black Knights going beyond his heritage. "We all bonded, got to know each other ... it was only three days, but we really bonded over those three days, even with my host David Evans."
As Tamasese pointed out, even before the dust settles, it will be the blending of the diverse backgrounds, who will be wearing combination of common colors, which will be the black & gold of Army and with one common football goal .... register the wins.
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