Arizona Cardinals have employed players of Tongan descent

Fourth-round draft selection Leki Fotu is the latest player of Tongan descent to be employed by the Arizona Cardinals organization

This past April, the Arizona Cardinals did something during the NFL Draft that is a bit unique. With the first of the club’s two fourth-round selections, general manager Steve Keim landed Leki Fotu, a defensive tackle with Tongan bloodlines. While a move like that by the Cards is by no means common practice, it’s also not the first time that the franchise took on a player with roots to the country of Tonga.

Back in 1986, when the Cardinals resided in St. Louis, the organization selected Vai Sikahema during the 10th round of that year’s draft. The electrifying kick-return specialist spent five campaigns with Big Red, and was voted to two Pro Bowls (1986-87). Sikahema was born in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, before migrating to the United States when he was 10 years old.

Years later, during the 2006 draft, Arizona added another Tongan-born individual to the squad. Deuce Lutui, who happens to be a cousin of Sikahema’s, was a second-round choice out of USC. The 6’4, 338 pounder, who was born in Ha’apai, Tonga, started 72 games at right guard during his career with the Cardinals.

Fotu differs from his predecessors in one way.  Sikahema and Lutui were actually born in Tonga, but the University of Utah product was not. Fotu’s parents are natives of the Polynesian land, but moved to California before the birth of their son.

There are a couple of other Tongan defensive tackles who Fotu has been compared to. Haloti Ngata is a five-time Pro Bowler who was a first-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens back in ’06. Vita Vea has logged 22 starts for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since he was taken 12th-overall by the team back in 2018.

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Representatives of Tonga have certainly made their mark in professional football over the years. The Cards would love nothing more than for Fotu to do the same.


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