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Tuesday, July 2, 2013
My path to the pros

By Carmen R. Thompson
ESPN The Magazine

Domata Peko
Until his senior year, Peko played beach volleyball, basketball and rugby.

The beginning

I got my start playing peewee football in third grade in Los Angeles, and I played that for three years until we moved to Pago Pago, American Samoa, where I stopped playing. After we moved, I was just really into our church. My dad was a pastor, and I was helping him and playing music, so I was pretty busy. But I did play rugby, which is huge in Samoa. Volleyball is big there too, but it'd just be a thing we'd do, nothing organized or anything like that.

The middle school days

Throughout all of this, playing various sports, I didn't go to any camps and I wasn't really recruited. In Samoa, at least at that time, there were, like, three guys from the whole island who were looking to get scholarships, and I still hadn't started up with football again. I was still playing rugby, which I liked a lot because it's a lot of running. It's a great way to stay in shape.

The high school years

In high school, at least up until my senior year, I played beach volleyball, basketball and rugby. But then, before my senior year, I thought I'd give football another try. I was certainly big enough. So I put basketball and rugby aside to focus on football, and I was good right away. I remember one drill in particular. One other player, one of the best players on the team, called me out during one of our hitting drills. He wanted to go against me, and he called me out in front of everyone. But I ran him over. That's when I knew I was gifted. That season made me want to pursue the NFL, just to see if I could make it. I made the All-Star team in Samoa after playing only one year, and I was playing all sorts of positions -- tight end, fullback, kicker, punter. The coaches noticed that I was doing really well, but I didn't get any offers. I got a call from a junior college in California called College of the Canyons, and I went there for two years before Michigan State gave me a scholarship.

More rising stars retrace their paths to the pros:

Maya Gabeira | Paul Goldschmidt | Brandon Jennings | Cam Newton | Jozy Altidore | Ashton Eaton | Maya Moore | Michael Crabtree | Ian Kinsler | C.J. Wilson | Nnamdi Asomugha | Bernard Pollard | Richard Seymour | Michelle Wie | Brittany Lincicome | Gordon Hayward | DeMarcus Cousins | Matt Flynn | Jairus Byrd | Rey Maualuga | Domata Peko | Le'Ron McClain | Glen Perkins | Jeff Halpern | Jay Feely

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