A week after 60 Minutes on CBS opened the nation's eyes to the fact that American Samoa is fast becoming a production line for NFL talent, the Bengals' own Jonathan Fanene was encouraging the next generation of young players from 'the rock' to make their mark on the game in South Florida.
Immediately following the AFC and NFC practices ahead of the 2010 NFL Pro Bowl, a 45-player roster representing 'the World' took on Team USA in USA Football's Team USA vs. The World Game, presented by Riddell at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Bengals defensive lineman Fanene was an Honorary Captain for the World team that featured his younger brother Aiulua among the linebacker corps alongside two other Samoans.
Fanene joined former New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams running back Mosi Tatupu to represent the World team, while former Miami Dolphins center Dwight Stephenson captained Team USA and the group accompanied NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for the pregame coin toss.
"I'm happy to be here to represent American Samoa, support my brother and his teammates and see how the World team fares against Team USA," said Fanene, who with Domata Peko is one of two American Samoans on the Bengals roster. "As soon I was asked to come down here, I had no hesitation. I hope I can give them advice on how to have a successful career in college football and the NFL and to enjoy playing football."
The World team, featuring players from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico and Sweden in addition to American Samoa fared well against a Team USA comprised of 45 high school seniors who have committed to some of the nation's top college football programs. Down by a touchdown conceded on the stroke of halftime, the World team rallied, but eventually lost 17-0. The margin of defeat was narrower than many predicted and suggested the world in football terms is becoming a smaller place.
"The World team impressed me and with a few more breaks they could have won the game," said Fanene. "There is clearly a talent pool that exists outside the United States that is improving and growing. I want to thank IFAF (International federation of American Football) for choosing me to be a captain for the World team."
More information on football internationally and in American Samoa can be found at IFAF.org.