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Stephen Paea's Rugby Roots And Traditional Haka Dance


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Like most kids born in New Zealand, Stephen Paea's dream growing up was to play for the All-Backs, the country's national rugby team.

The Redskins' newest acquisition, a defensive lineman, who last played with Chicago, always had the desire to play professional rugby, especially at the position called "Number Eight," which requires a player to run with the ball.

"That was my dream growing up," Paea told earlier last year.  "Just like any other kids growing up watching football, they wanted to play quarterback, running back. And for me, for Rugby, I wanted to run the ball."

But Paea, who grew up primarily in Tonga, quickly realized that with his size, he'd be better suited for a different position.

"When I first moved here I thought it was funny because I kept thinking they were going to give me the ball," Paea said. "When I moved here I was one of the biggest guys in my high school so they put me on O-line and D-line. I started to play more D-Line just because you've got to use your athletic ability."

He got a rare opportunity to reconnect with his rugby roots, however, last November, when the All-Blacks traveled to Soldier Field to take on the United States. After following the team forever, Paea finally would see his team in person.

"That was my first time watching the All-Blacks live," he said. "I'd been watching them on TV and listening on the radio and to be able to watch them live in my own home stadium in Chicago was just an honor and a blessing. It was great because I got to spend it with my family watching it."

During the visit, Paea was asked to help lead a Haka dance, a traditional New Zealand war dance, performed with AIG Rugby ambassadors to welcome the team into Chicago.

The dance has been a tradition since 1888, started by the New Zealand football team that has since been carried on by the rugby squad.

As you can see below, Paea, who played football (and led dances) for Oregon State in college, has also extended the dance onto the football field before some games.




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