As pacific islanders like Manti Te’o in 2013 and Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota this year begin to make an impact in the NFL, former Washington State nose tackle Kalifitoni Pole is attempting to be next in line.
Pole, listed at 6’1′, 301 pounds who was born in Hayward, California. His hometown is Union City, California. He had 76 career tackles, 10 of them for loss, and four sacks in his time playing for the Cougars. A selection for the the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl playing for the American team in Carson, California, Pole spoke to Pro Player Insiders’ Emma Roll about his opportunity to play in the game.
“To be honest, it’s kind of surreal,” said Pole. “I’m just trying to absorb everything. I feel really blessed to be here. Just to be a part of something where I get to meet all these different people from different places in the country. Just to go up and go against and go heads. When we get off the field, we’re all just kicking back and it’s real nice.”
The defensive line coaches, former NFL players Dwaine Board (American) and Jeff Zgonina (National), have been extremely helpful during the week of practice, according to Pole.
“They do a great job of correcting me and being very constructive. Helping me take my game to the next level,” said Pole.
Pole is also playing with Pac-12 conference rivals, as Arizona’s Dan Pettinato, Washington’s Andrew Hudson join him from the defensive line, but Pole says it’s “nice” to see them, and that they’re “really cool people”. As a pacific islander, Pole wants to represent his culture and people well.
“We’re raised with a lot of pride a lot of culture, and a lot of tradition based on respect,” Pole said of pacific islanders. “My parents raised me the right way, and put me on the path to where I am today. I’ve gone through trials. Just sticking with what you know, your faith and everything, you can go a long way if you just stick with it. I blessed to be here.”
There’s also players from the Pac-12 who I’ve played against, not physically against them but other teams. it’s nice to see them and they are really cool people from Arizona and even Washington, they’re cool people.”
Pole likes to be and feel relaxed, as his favorite accessory is a Bob Marley bracelet, and he doesn’t wear anything “fancy”, instead wearing sweats and slippers. The young defensive lineman likes to dream, and loves traveling, as he’s been to New Zealand and also Tonga to see family at a young age, and also would like to travel to Hawaii because he’s never been, Italy because of his love of Italian food, and also places like the Bahamas, Greece, and Fiji.
Pole says food has always been a passion of his, as he ate his first Big Mac at the age of one, and his nickname is Phatboy. Pole is also not one to get “pumped up” from his pre-game music choices.
“I like to relax so I listen to a lot of Island Reggae,” said Pole. “A little bit of Fiji, Common King, Sammy J, J Bug, something simple. I don’t like to get too rattled. I’m kind of even-keeled during the game, you’ve just got to turn it on before you hit the field, but before that I don’t work myself up too much.”
Pole will have his chance to prove himself to NFL teams on Saturday, but as he has been taught his entire life, he can go a long way if he continues to stick it out on this journey.
About the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl is a premiere post-season all-star game for draft-eligible college players. The week-long schedule provides participants with a first-class professional experience while introducing them to the business of the National Football League.
Founded in 2012, the annual game gives prospective NFL players the best opportunity to showcase their talents to potential employers and fans. In 2013, scouts from every NFL club and other professional leagues attended the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl’s practices and game. Nearly 100 scouts not only watched the live practices and game but also conducted player interviews and reviewed tape. Peak television ratings for the 2013 game surpassed the East-West Shrine game and bested the Senior Bowl in overall impressions. The 2013 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl was ESPN’s highest-rated collegiate programs on game day.
In 2014, more than 140 NFL Scouts, Player Personnel Staff, GMs and Head Coaches attended the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl practices and game. Multiple other professional football leagues had representatives on hand as well.
The game is on Saturday, January 17 at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT, and is televised on ESPN2. Practices are on ESPNU.
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