Sopo’aga at new Fealofani dedication
Thirty-year old 49ers starting nose tackle, Isaac Sopo’aga of Fagasa spent three days in the territory with his wife, Tumua to attend the dedication ceremony of the new Fealofani Samoa lll fautasi and to connect with families. Sopo’aga’s dad is Tupuola Sopo’aga.
Sopo’aga said he and wife Tumua, who is from the village of Leone enjoyed their short stay with families, friends and people of his village.
Of his eight years with the San Francisco 49ers (he was drafted in 2004), this past season was the most productive of his NFL career as San Francisco reached the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Although they did not advance to the Super Bowl thanks to the New York Giants, Sopo’aga said the experience of being in the playoffs for the first time was a “blessing”.
“It came down to fighting hard to what you believe in and in trusting the ability of your coaches and teammates. We came very close to going to the Super Bowl,” Sopo’aga told this correspondent. The San Francisco 49ers lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants, 20-17 in overtime.
Ironically, the 49ers were also that close to landing Peyton Manning, the older brother of Super Bowl XLVl MVP Eli, whom San Francisco pursued aggressively when the Indianapolis Colts released him early this month.
“We had a great chance of getting Peyton but those decisions were made by team management. But we still have a solid quarterback, Alex Smith who played exceptionally well this season,” Sopo'aga explained.
The American Samoan player who is in the 9th year of his contract said he would be a free agent after next season. Sopo’aga said he has not made a decision as to his future but was focusing on the upcoming season with the 49ers.
“I’m enjoying myself at San Francisco. We have a lovely family and have many friends there.”
Sopo’aga and Tumua have four young children. They are: Marcia 13, Valo 6, Isaako 3, and Hatesa 2. They did not accompany their parents in this trip.
Sopo’aga is looking forward to the new season and believes his team will be in a better position to reach their goal of going to the Super Bowl next year.
“We have a great head coach in Jim Harbaugh, a down to earth kind of guy and very easy to get a long with. He is a knowledgeable person and he introduced a new system that has worked well for us.
“Most of our veterans are coming back this season as they have signed extended contracts. We have sacrificed a lot and committed to learning our new offensive and defensive playbook. Our coaching unit is one of the best in the NFL and with a Heavenly blessing, we will show the world that we can do it.”
Sopo’aga said his first sport while growing up and attending Samoana High School was rugby. “I didn’t know anything about football,” he said with a smile. He credited his coaches at his alma mater, Moamoa Vaeao and his assistant Simon Mageo, for teaching him how to play football.
Sopo’aga said some of the local high school athletes who were drafted to the NFL after him are: Jonathan Fanene from Tafuna High School, Domata Peko and Matt Toea’ina who both attended Samoana High School.
Fanene was drafted in 2005 and played defensive end with the Cincinnati Bengals. He recently signed a three-year contract with the New England Patriots when he became a free agent this year. Toea’ina joined the Bengals in 2007 as a defensive tackle but is now with the Chicago Bears on a three-year contract.
The Bengals in the 2006 NFL draft acquired Peko, who plays defensive tackle.
Sopo’aga offers a lot of advice to the young high school players who have the potential to land football scholarships.
“To my young brothers here, don’t give up, but tackle the many challenges that you will face. Carry your family name well. Be polite and respect others. Be proud of being a Samoan and set a high standard for yourself, and for your academic goals, and never lose sight of your culture. Be physically, mentally and spiritually prepared at all time.
“I wish you all my Samoan brothers and nephews the best of luck in your careers. Remember our Samoan motto, “Fa’amuamua le Atua i Mea Uma.”
Sopo’aga and his wife, Tumua left the territory on Sunday night.