The Journey of Tevita Finau


Aug. 18, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver

Jordan Shipley

(16) gets tackled by New York Jets defensive tackle

Tevita Finau

(92), defensive tackle

Sheldon Richardson

(91) and inside linebacker

David Harris

(52) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes in this life, we take what we have for granted. We can say we never take anything for granted, but to be perfectly honest, majority of us do it, even if we do not plan too.

While many of us take what we have for granted, one man certainly does not. Tevita Finau, defensive lineman for the New York Jets lives his life every day never taking what he has for granted, and is appreciative of all that he has in his life.

After growing up in New Zealand, but forced to move all throughout the world as a young child, Finau never had it easy, and certainly did not have much consistency in his life. “New Zealand is a country in which you just have to go and experience it for yourself, it is much different than America”, is how Finau described his native land. Although he was just a child, “I remember the cars driving on the left side of the road, as to the right side that we drive on here.”

“ I love and miss New Zealand everyday” is how Finau feels about his native land. But “missing” places is something that Finau had to deal with many, many times growing up. While many children would find it impossible to leave friends/family behind, Finau had a different approach to it. He said “For me I looked at it as an opportunity to build friendships, lifelong friendships”, which shows Finau’s tremendous character, and always positive way of thinking.

“Make the best of it, make as many friends as possible, and build long-lasting memories that you will cherish forever, because when it comes time to leave, you may never see these people again, and so that was the mindset that I had as a child, that allowed me to enjoy my time where ever it was we moved too” is how Finau viewed his constant moving, and it is fair to say his positive attitude towards it has made him the person that he is today.

Aug 24, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Tevita Finau (92) sacks New York Giants quarterback

Curtis Painter

(17) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. New York Jets defeat the New York Giants 24-21 in OT. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

By the time high school rolled around for Finau, he was still on the move. Growing up on a small island in Maui, Finau made the move to Kahuku High School, on the main island of Oahu, Hawaii to focus on football. Finally, Fianau had some stability in his life, and he made the most of it. His team won the Hawaii State Championship in 2004, something that Finau said is something he will never forget. “ There were no words to describe that feeling for me, I couldn’t have been more blessed to play for such a great program, to be around great teammates and coaches, and to be loved and accepted by the people of Oahu.

Once high school was over though, Finau had a decision to make on what he wanted to do next with his life. For the two years right after high school, Finau stayed back home in Maui, doing heavy masonry work doing everything he possibly could to support his family. To stay in football shape though, Finau played Rugby in his spare time.

There is a saying, that “A life can turn in the blink of an eye” , and in Finau’s case, that quote represents exactly what happened to him. Finau and a few cousins decided that they were ready to go to school and play football, so a few days later, Finau and his family traveled to a small junior college in Thatcher, Arizona, and they all wondered if this would be the next place they call home.

“When we got to the school, a coach came out and told us he was sorry, but they did not have any more scholarships to give out. I will never forget that feeling, it felt as if my whole dream of playing football in college had just been taken away from me.” Just like that, it looked like Finau would have to go back home, and basically give up his dreams.

It is funny how things work though. On the way back to the airport, they decided to stop at “Moki’s Hawaiian Barbeque”, a place Finau said he will never ever forget. While sitting and eating, a man comes over to their table, after staring at them from a far away for a few minutes. The man’s first words were “ Do you guys play football?”, and in unison, they all said “ yes we all do” . And in a statement that changed Finau’s life forever, this man simply asked “Would you guys wanna play football for me? “

The man would go on to explain that he had just been hired as the Linebackers coach at Phoenix College, and the head coach happened to be in his first year as well. On the same day in which Finau and his cousins were turned down from one school, they wound up registering for classes at Phoenix College that same day.

Finau cannot say enough about his time at Phoenix, and said “Phoenix College made me realize that I could still go after this dream of mine of playing at a D1 level, but also made me realize that being able to achieve a college degree was even closer, they helped me mature as a person and also helped me develop as a football player. So grateful for the opportunity and education I was given during my time there” . Basically, one trip to a restaurant changed Finau’s life forever.

Finau is now a member of the New York Jets, a long way from that small college in Thatcher, Arizona that turned him down just over six years ago. From a kid growing up in New Zealand, always on the move, and being turned down from a college, Finau can now say “I made it” .

Finau has only been a Jet for a short time, but he has high praise for the organization. “Being a Jet is like trying to become a Navy Seal. Everyone wants to be one, but only the best and few are chosen. I’m grateful every day that I’m blessed to be a Jet. From my teammates to the coaches and front office, there’s a respect and loyalty that you have to the guys in the locker room and to the coaches, and that comes automatically when you sign on here, which is something that I truly value as a NY Jet.

Finau has a very bright future ahead of him both on and off the football field, and when asked what his future goals are, Finau said that “Off the field I would like to give back more in any way that I can, I feel as if I have been blessed throughout my life with so much, that it is only right to give back, no matter the cause or situation. If it’s the right thing to do, there’s a 100% chance I’m going to do it”.

And that is just the kind of person Tevita Finau is.