Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

Raised In Tonga, Stephen Paea Had Sheltered Lifestyle


*For more from the team, including exclusive videos, photos and written content, be sure to “like” the Redskins’ Official Facebook page.  *

Growing up in Tonga, a Polynesian sovereign state and archipelago in the southern Pacific Ocean, Stephen Paea, the newly signed Redskins defensive lineman, had little contact with outside culture.

He had no television, one F.M. radio station and little Wi-Fi for his phone.

"The biggest difference when I got [to the United States] were the buildings," Paea told Larry Michael, Voice of the Redskins, on "Redskins Nation." "You see something in a movie -- like Sunny D orange juice or something like that, and you can actually go buy that from the store, versus in Tonga you see like a Snickers commercial and you're like, 'Wait, what the heck is Snickers?'"

To say Paea was sheltered would be an understatement, but some of that sheltered life had its lessons. For one thing, it made him appreciate the family and friends closest to him.

"One thing I learned growing up is respect your elders," Paea said. "Our culture is all about being disciplined, and I think growing up over there in our culture, I think that's what made me who I am today – being successful. It's about being on-time, being respectful to elders, coaches, you name it. That's who I am today."

Paea was actually born in Auckland, New Zealand, before moving to Tonga and didn't come to America until he was 16 years old. His journey now continues further east.

"I went to Kansas first and moved from Kansas to Utah where I went [for] my senior year of high school," Paea said. "Then I went to junior college there, Snow College. That's where I found a scholarship to Oregon State and got drafted to Chicago, and here I am."




This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content