Samoa: The Football Islands 60-minutes video reports
(CBS) There's a small community that produces more players for the NFL than anyplace else in America. It isn't in Texas, or Florida or Oklahoma. In fact, it's as far from the foundations of football as you can get.
Call it "Football Island" - American Samoa, a rock in the distant South Pacific.
From an island of just 65,000 people, there are more than 30 players of Samoan descent in the NFL and more than 200 playing Division I college ball. That's like 30 current NFL players coming out of Sparks, Nev., or Gastonia, N.C. 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley traveled 8,000 miles to American Samoa and found a people and traditions so perfectly suited to America's game - it's as if they'd been waiting centuries for football to come ashore.
In American Samoa, a football team warms up with the Haka War Dance - something that's been passed down for ages to teach agility to warriors of size and strength.
What coach doesn't wish he'd thought of that first? It turns out the South Pacific was raising football talent before there was football.
While Pelley was there, the island was getting set for its version of the Super Bowl - the High School Championship.
After a winning season, 16-year-old quarterback Tavita Neemia would lead the Samoana High School Sharks. His coach, Pepine Lauvoa, has a roster that mainland schools dream about.
"Theyâ€™re soft spoken, theyâ€™re gentle," he told Pelley of his players. â€œBut when they put on their equipment, they just become monsters. And they just want to go out and hit and hit and hit."
Web Extra: Scott Pelley Notebook
One 16-year-old player told Pelley he's 6 feet 5 inches tall. Another, 17 years old, said he's 6 foot 4 and a half.
"It looks like youâ€™ve been hitting cars with this thing," Pelley said, holding a beaten-up football helmet, eliciting laughter from the players.
In the last five years alone, the island's six high schools have produced 10 NFL linemen. It's estimated that a boy born to Samoan parents is 56 times more likely to get into the NFL than any other kid in America.
The Samoan people are big. And big is beautiful, according to Togiola Tulafono, the governor of American Samoa.
Tulafono said it's not just size that makes the Samoans such great football players. His people come from a farming culture that prizes hard work, reverence and discipline. And he thinks that's why scouts and coaches are pulling out their atlases.
"Iâ€™m afraid most Americans back on the mainland would be hard pressed to pick this place out on a map," Pelley said.
"Yeah, it's not very visible," Tulafono agreed.
"It is a small dot on a big ocean."
"It is, it is," he responded. But nowadays Google helps a lot."
American Samoa is a paradise - clear seas and 80 degrees most of the time. It's a land that roared out of the Pacific in a volcanic eruption. Nearly 5,000 miles from California and way past Hawaii, it's the only inhabited American possession south of the Equator. Of the seven islands in the chain, the largest is just over 19 miles, end to end.
It was back in 1899 that the U.S. Navy sailed into this harbor and figured that it was perfect for refueling ships. The islands have been American ever since.
The Samoan people aren't exactly American citizens. They can't vote for president - but, on the other hand, they don't pay income taxes either. The capital, Pago Pago, has an American feel. Flag Day is the most important holiday and there's a tradition of sending kids into the U.S. military. But for all its beauty, American Samoa is not blessed with wealth. For the most part, Samoans make a living canning tuna. Two-thirds of the people are below the poverty level.
Tavita Neemia, the quarterback for the Sharks, has a typical family. His mom works at the cannery, and he'll need a scholarship to go to college. He and Coach Lauvoa make the most of what they have.
The high school football field, which Lauvao called the "Field of Champions," is short, rocky and unlined. The team doesn't have a locker room or a weight room, either. And yet three NFL players have come out of his school.
"How are you turning out NFL football players?" Pelley asked Lauvao.
"Determination," he responded.
Voc-Tech High School has one player in the NFL. But Coach Ethan Lake has no practice field at all, and no locker room. A rusted shipping container is the storeroom for his varsity team's busted, antiquated equipment.
"Everything thatâ€™s in here, that we have gotten here in American Samoa, is actually donated," Lake said. "Itâ€™s second-hand equipment. And it's actually equipment that would never be allowed to be used in the States."
"Coach, if you used some of this gear back in the States, youâ€™d get sued," Pelley remarked.
"Definitely, definitely," he nodded.