Vai Sikahema

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Vai Sikahema
Date of birth: (1962-08-29) 29 August 1962 (age 52)
Place of birth: Nukuʻalofa, Tonga
Career information
Position(s): Running back
Kickoff returner
College: Brigham Young
NFL Draft: 1986 / Round: 10 / Pick: 254
Organizations
As player:
1986–1990
1991
1992–1993
St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals
Green Bay Packers
Philadelphia Eagles
Career highlights and awards
Pro Bowls: 1986, 1987
Career stats
Playing stats at NFL.com

Vai Sikahema (born 29 August 1962) is a Tongan former American football player and television news reporter. The first Tongan ever to play in the National Football League (NFL), he played running back and kickoff returner in the league for eight seasons, from 1986 to 1993. He played college football for the Brigham Young University Cougars, and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) in the tenth round of the 1986 NFL Draft. He also played for the Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles before retiring after the 1993 season. Since retiring he has served as Sports Director for WCAU, the NBC owned-and-operated station in Philadelphia, where he has been since 1994.

Sikahema is an older cousin of fellow Tongan NFL player Deuce Lutui.[1]

Early life[edit]

Sikahema was born in Nukuʻalofa, the capital of Tonga. His parents went to the Church College of Hawai'i (now Brigham Young University-Hawaii), leaving Vai and his siblings with relatives in Tonga. After a year of working at the Polynesian Cultural Center they had enough money to bring Vai to join them. His family later moved to the U.S. state of Arizona, settling in Mesa, a suburb of Phoenix. It was here that they got legal resident status and were eventually able to bring his other siblings to join them.[2] Sikahema attended Mesa High School, where he played high school football.

College career[edit]

In 1980 Sikahema enrolled at Brigham Young University, where he played college football for the BYU Cougars. As a freshman, he endeared himself to Cougar fans by returning a punt for a touchdown in BYU's 46–45 come-from-behind victory over SMU in the 1980 Holiday Bowl. He played one more season after that (1981), serving mainly as a return specialist, before leaving school for two years to serve as a Mormon missionary in South Dakota. Sikahema returned to BYU in 1984. That season, the Cougars posted a perfect 13–0 record, claiming college football's national championship. By the end of his senior year (1985), he held an NCAA record for most punt returns (153) in a career.

Professional career[edit]

Sikahema was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1986 NFL Draft. As such he became the first Tongan ever to play in the National Football League.[1]

He was a special teams standout for several teams, including the St. Louis/ Phoenix Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, and Philadelphia Eagles. He was named to the Pro Bowl twice (in 1986 and 1987). It was during his stint with the Eagles that he came up with the famous "goalpost punching" stunt after scoring a punt return touchdown in a 1992 game against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium.

Broadcasting career[edit]

Upon retiring, Sikahema was hired by then-CBS owned and operated television station WCAU in Philadelphia to do weekend sports. Surviving the station's sale to NBC, Sikahema later moved to weekdays and is currently the sports director.

Personal life[edit]

Sikahema's younger cousin is Deuce Lutui, who currently plays guard for the Arizona Cardinals.[1] Another cousin, Reno Mahe, also played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Sikahema's nephew by marriage is actor Jon Heder, star of the films Napoleon Dynamite and Blades of Glory.

In May 2008, Sikahema accepted an open challenge from former baseball player Jose Canseco to fight him in a celebrity boxing match for $25,000. Canseco claims to have earned black belts in Kung Fu, Taekwondo, and has experience in Muay Thai, while Sikahema, who grew up wanting to be a professional boxer, had fought 80 amateur bouts while younger. The Canseco fight was held on 12 July 2008, in Atlantic City at the Bernie Robbins Stadium, and was dubbed The War at The Shore.[3] Sikahema won by knockout in the first round and donated the $5,000 purse to the family of Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski, a fallen officer of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Sikahema is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).[4] He has been a resident of Mount Laurel Township, New Jersey together with his wife and four children.[5] Sikahema is currently serving as a stake president in the LDS Church.[6]

In March 2010, Sikahema joined with The Philadelphia Inquirer sports writer John Gonzalez as the hosts of the Early Midday Show on Philadelphia radio station WPEN-FM 97.5 the Fanatic.

Vai Sikahema was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame on November 22, 2013.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Tongan pair join Big Ben centre stage". The Australian. Agence France-Presse. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  2. ^ Deseret News, 31 January 2010
  3. ^ Vai Sikahema came into the fight with 80 amateur fights. "Bernard Fernandez: Conseco, Sikahema in celebrity boxing event in Atlantic City", Philadelphia Daily News (philly.com), 27 May 2008.
  4. ^ "Interview with NBC's East Coast Sportscaster, Vai Sikahema - Part 4 - LDS". Lds.families.com. 31 December 1981. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  5. ^ Kravitz, Gary. "Where Are They Now: KR/PR Vai Sikahema", Philadelphia Eagles, 2 April 2004. Retrieved 25 March 2011. "Sikahema currently resides in Mount Laurel, N.J., with his wife Keala and four children: Landon, L.J., Trey, and Lana."
  6. ^ "New Stake Presidents", Retrieved Jan 25, 2014. "Sikahema currently resides in Mount Laurel, N.J., with his wife Keala and four children: Landon, L.J., Trey, and Lana. President — Vai Sikahema, 51, news anchor for NBC;"

External links[edit]