American Samoan Hoping A Super Bowl Ring Is His Destiny

Destiny Vaeao was impossible to miss at the Super Bowl 52 Opening Night as he wandered down from a stage at the Xcel Energy Arena to the floor hosting many of the 5,800 media credentialed for this season’s NFL season showpiece.

The Philadelphia Eagles had just been introduced to the throng of reporters and an excited fan audience as their first exposure to the excitement that is media week. For the next hour, they would be peppered with questions ranging from the benign to the ridiculous. Earlier that evening, Sunday’s opponents the New England Patriots had undergone similar inquisition.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” said the American Samoan, who had spent the first few minutes of the event broadcasting live via Facebook from his smartphone, while towering over most attendees. “Minneapolis has been great with their hospitality and everyone here has been good to us.”

The Eagles had arrived the previous day and settled into a team hotel unusually close to the hub of Super Bowl activity, the Media Center. This year, the Patriots are located at one end of the Mall of America, which is hosting those charged with informing the world about anything and everything that happens during the build-up to 52, while the Eagles reside across the way. Usually teams are housed in relative obscurity, but Minnesota has featured several changes, including the hustle and bustle of Radio Row, where stations report to listeners 24/7, being in the middle of the mall with complete viewing access for the general public.

If Vaeao was as excited as the fans who mill around the Media Center, growing in numbers with every day that passes, he wasn’t showing it.

“It means a lot to the players and the organization and the fans to be here in the Super Bowl,” he said nonchalantly. “We just need to do what we do to win. We’ll play football and try to win this for the city of Philadelphia.”

The defensive tackle is part of a statistical anomaly, with 34 American Samoans having played in the NFL, which is an impressive number considering their homeland has a population of only 54,000 and a 77 square-mile land mass.

Destiny being interviewed by a Sports Illustrated reporter

“I think we were built for the game and we love the game of football,” he explained. “Coming to play in the NFL is a great opportunity and is great for our families and the people back home. We can help the family out back home by playing in the NFL. It’s something that you grew up watching and you wanted to be a part of. Football is that way you can be successful.”

Naturally, those back home in the U.S. territory will be pulling for their compatriot on Sunday, just as they do every week, with the time difference creating the luxury of a 12.30pm local time kickoff.

“I know people in Samoa are going to watch,” said Vaeao. “I appreciate their love and support throughout the season.”

Vaeao, who has played in 11 games and recorded 10 total tackles and a pass defended for the Eagles this season, possesses skills other than those required to take his place in the trenches, but don’t expect him to be a part of any trick formations Philadelphia might have in store for the Patriots.

“If they give me a chance I’ll be able to kick, but I’d rather let the special teams guys do their thing,” said the 6-4, 299 pounds defensive tackle, who has kicked in practice and reportedly showed good soccer-style form. He also has the experience to line up on offense. “I think the days of me playing tight end are long gone,” he laughed. “I’m just focused on playing D-line.”

That includes the potential of claiming a prized Tom Brady sack, which would certainly go down as well in his hometown of Pago Pago as in Philly, but as Vaeao explains, Sunday is just about business and not personal glory.

“It doesn’t matter that it’s Tom Brady,” he shrugged. “It could be any quarterback. We’ll do what we do and go into this game as we would any other game. We approach this just like any other Sunday, but with more time to prepare. We’ll go out there and do our job and try to get the win on Sunday.We’re a family. It all starts with Chris Long and Fletcher Cox and the expectation is there that we’re going to be a big game defensive line that helps the Eagles to win the Super Bowl.”

Michael Preston is working his 19th Super Bowl as a member of the NFL PR team and has held communications positions with NFL Europe, the North American Soccer League, IFAF and the United Football League. He handles media relations for Global Football and his debut novel, The Silver Skeleton, is available through Amazon.

Michael Preston
Michael Preston (@PRMikePreston) is working his 19th Super Bowl as a member of the NFL PR team and has held communications positions with NFL Europe, the North American Soccer League, IFAF and the United Football League. He handles media relations for Global Football and his debut novel, The Silver Skeleton, is available through Amazon.
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