Top 3 International Players in Cincinnati Bengals History

While it may seem like all Bengals come from either LSU or Ohio State, (or in the case of Joe Burrow, both) some of the all-time “Who Dey” greats hail from some more exotic places. At least background with more of an international flavor.

In this article, we take a look at three all-time international Bengal favorites.

Rey Maualuga

Maualuga is an American Samoan. He was actually born in Oklahoma where his dad was serving in the US Army. The family then moved to Hawaii where Maualuga picked up football as a youth. The family struggled financially however and moved back to the mainland when Rey was in sixth grade. He ended up starring in high school football, first in Ventura in Southern Cal then up in Eureka in the northern part of the state. He played his college ball at USC from 2005-2008 during the latter part of the hugely successful Pete Carroll era. He joined future NFL stars Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews in a superstar college linebacking corps.

All three were projected as first round picks in the 2009 NFL draft, but Maualuga lasted into the second round, where he went 38th to the Bengals.

He would go on to play eight seasons for the Bengal, almost always starting until his last season in Cincy and always a disruptive force. His best season was 2012 when he played on 96% of the Bengals defensive snaps and finished second on the team in tackles with 122 and in addition to four passes defensed, a sack and a fumble recovery. Maualuga finished his Bengals career with 584 tackles, four sacks, six forced fumbles, seven interceptions and 21 passes defensed. He would go on to play six more games with the Dolphins in 2017 before hanging up his cleats.

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Domata Peko

Peko was certainly one of the most recognizable Bengals of the recent era thanks a lot to his incredible flowing mane. He is also of American Samoan heritage. Domata was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Pago Pago in Samoa. He played his college ball at Michigan State with a signature moment “big man” fumble recovery TD vs Chad Henne and big brother Michigan in 2005.

The 6’2”, 307 pound nose tackle lasted into the 4th round in the 2006 draft where the Bengals drafted him, After serving mostly as a backup his rookie year, he would anchor the Bengals defensive front from either the defensive tackle or nose tackle spots for the next decade. The job there is to clog up the middle and take blockers on so as to free the linebackers up for clear tackles. Peko did his job well as he got above average grades from Pro Football Focus for virtually every season. He totalled 550 tackles and 18.5 sacks despite often coming off the field in obvious passing downs. Peko’s most impressive career feat was his durability and reliability. He missed the last five games of the regular season in 2009 but otherwise played and started every Bengals game from 2007 through 2016. Even in 2009 he returned to play in the Bengals playoff game.

Peko left for Denver in 2017 and played two years there and then part of the 2019 season with the Ravens and 2020 with the Cardinals before retiring.

Margus Hunt

Very few have taken a more unique path to the Bengals, or the NFL for that matter, than Margus Hunt. He grew up in a small town called Karksi-Nuia in southern Estonia. Hunt was a huge kid and took up discus and hammer throw and became good enough to compete in world junior championships. He actually set a world junior record in the discus in 2006.

Hunt went to train in Dallas in 2007 and one of his coaches thought a guy with his freakish combo of size and athleticism should give football a try. How freakish? At age 20, Hunt stood 6’8”, had an 82 inch wingspan, weighed about 270 and could run the 40 yard dash in 4.7 seconds. SMU offered Hunt a football scholarship.

His big talent at SMU was in blocking kicks. He somehow blocked 10 in his first 14 games. By the time Hunt went into the draft in 2013 he wowed the league with his measurables by bench pressing 225 pounds 38 times, running 40 yard dash in 4.6 seconds, and popping out a 34.5 vertical leap. The Bengals snagged what was still an incredibly raw product at pick 53 in the second round.

Hunt would go on to play just four seasons in Cincinnati. Unfortunately his crazy physical tools never quite translated into NFL stardom. He played between 50-60% of defensive snaps in the 2014-16 seasons but to not much statistical notice. Hunt then went to the Colts for three seasons before a half season return to Cincy in 2020.

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