Jonathan Fanene’s Samoan Heritage Helped Him Become Hardworking Player Who Will Be Popular With Patriots

Jonathan Fanene's Samoan Heritage Helped Him Become Hardworking Player Who Will Be Popular With PatriotsFOXBORO, Mass. — It took five words for Jonathan Fanene to describe why he'll be so respected in New England.

The defensive lineman, who signed a three-year deal with the Patriots in March, was asked Tuesday about his native American Samoa, which has produced a number of successful NFL players. Point blank: How does such a small island send so many solid players to the NFL?

"Because they want it more," Fanene responded.

Fanene has built a reputation as a strong, hard-nosed player with a terrific work ethic. He isn't among the elite defensive linemen in the game, but he's the type of player who everyone would want on their team — because opponents hate lining up against him.

It's a trait that traces back to his heritage on the tiny island in the South Pacific Ocean, 5,000 miles off the coast of California. They're considered good, hardworking, prideful people who believe in family values, and they'll do what it takes to provide for one another, including hours of chores both before and after school.

Fanene, for instance, built his parents a new house after signing his contract in Cincinnati. It was probably the easiest decision he's ever made.

It sheds some light inside the hearts of the Samoans. In 2010, "60 Minutes" ran a story on the island, which has churned out more than 30 NFL players and 200 Division I players. That's an impressive turnout considering the island's population is about 65,000, which is about 4,000 less than the capacity of Gillette Stadium.

"[I have] a lot of pride [being] from American Samoa," Fanene said. "It's a small little island, but I'm so proud of it. Not just me. I'm happy there's a couple guys in the NFL that represent our island perfectly."

Fanene has undoubtedly become one of the players who has made his island proud. And because of his upbringing, many in New England — from the coaching staff to the fan base — should expect to feel the same type of pride when they watch him suit up for the Patriots.

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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