FRISCO, Texas — Draft day is always a big moment for a player and his family, as it represents the ultimate accomplishment for the player's hard work and his family's sacrifice to help get him to the NFL. For fourth-round pick Viliami Fehoko Jr. and his massive Polynesian family, that was especially evident when the Cowboys gave him the call on April 29.
Fehoko, who is of Tongan descent and speaks fluent Tongan, has had an uncountable number of family members that have been in his corner throughout his football career, including six sisters, a half-brother, his parents and "probably a thousand" cousins. For the 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive lineman, that solid support group is the first he gives credit to for being in the position that he's in today.
"My number-one inspiration and motivation has always been my family and our journey as a family," Fehoko said. "Coming from where we came from and all of the obstacles we had to go through to get here, that's in the back of my mind when I put my hand down and line up on that football field. I think of my mom, I think of my new daughter, family is everything to me."
The Polynesian culture has provided a backbone to Fehoko's football career, going back to when he was a kid watching Troy Polamalu. Despite representing just one-half of one-percent of the U.S population, Polynesians are well-represented in the NFL with nearly 70 players currently on NFL rosters, according to the NFL. That long-standing history and representation has given Fehoko the confidence to run full steam ahead with his future in football.
"Troy Polamalu was flying around like a crazy guy on that field," he said. "Watching him growing up, it just made us understand that it's possible for Polynesians. I'm second-cousins with Vita Vea and he set a new standard for the Polynesian culture, not just for me. Now we're all just trying to reach that standard and keep going."
First things first for Fehoko: a solid rookie campaign. With a vision in mind from defensive coordinator Dan Quinn about how to maximize his pass-rush ability, the 2022 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year is looking to keep the momentum rolling into his NFL career with the Cowboys.
"To see my dream come true after so many years of just putting my head down and working, it means everything to my family that I'm finally in this position," he said. "Now I just gotta keep working and keep going. Hit the ground running first year."