By NAN Sports Editor
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. Jan. 26, 2016: The countdown to Super Bowl 50 has begun now that the two teams set to clash in the mega show down are set to face-off in exactly 12 days from today. On both sides, there are foreign-born players who are part of the respective teams –the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos.
On the Carolina Panthers’ side is Star Lotulelei, who moved to the United States at the age of 9 from the Pacific Islands of Tonga. Tonga is a Polynesian kingdom of more than 170 islands, many uninhabited, most lined in white beaches and coral reefs and covered with tropical rainforest.
Lotulelei, a Mormon, committed to play at his favorite school, BYU, in 2006. However, he didn’t have the grades to get in and he was forced to spend the next year out of football altogether, moving heavy wooden king size beds, dining room tables and entertainment centers for a moving company in Utah.
Lotulelei enrolled at Snow College, a two-year school in Utah, where he’d play one season before transferring to Utah. There he was able to avoid falling prey to the Tongan Crip Gang and worked his way up to be named All-Pac 12 Conference in 2011 and 2012, and All-American in 2012.
He was selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers, where he has been a starter at right defensive tackle since his rookie year, and has helped the Panthers turn into one of the top defensive teams in the league. The #98, 6’2”, 310 pounds opponent-crushing 26-year-old player has a four year contract worth over $9 million.
Running back Juwan Thompson, 23, is part of the Denver Broncos side. Thompson, No. 40, was born in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The Duke University alumnus appeared in 49 career games there and totaled 274 rushes for 1,244 yards with nine touchdowns.
Thompson, who stands at 5 ft 11 in and weighs in at 225 pounds, was unfortunately among the Broncos’ inactives in the Denver AFC championship versus the New England Patriots’ Sunday, January 24th game.
Thompson was signed by the Broncos as an undrafted free agent on May 12, 2014. He became the first undrafted rookie since 2006 to record multiple rushing touchdowns in a game with his two-touchdown performance against San Diego on Oct. 23, 2014. He played 15 regular-season games as a rookie in 2014 and rushed for 272 yards on 54 carries. In a game against the Arizona Cardinals, Thompson scored his first career touchdown on an 8 yard run.
Thompson’s Twitter bio references Galatians 6:9 which says: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
That defines Thompson’s mind-set. It is now unclear if Thompson will be part of the roster for the Feb. 7th clash at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., home of the San Francisco 49ers.
The Broncos advanced with a 20-18 victory over the highly favored New England Patriots earlier Sunday.