This post was written by Jared A. Quan
Michael Iupati was born May 12, 1987 in American Samoa. Later at the age of 14 he would move to California, and play high school football at Western High School. Despite having achieved all-state and all-conference honors, sites like Rivals.com and scout.com only rated Iupati as a two star recruit. After suffering some academic drawbacks, he would go on to be one of Idaho’s most prolific offensive linemen of all time. Most 49ers fans have heard the basic history of Mike Iupati however there are many things that fans might not be aware of.
What sets Mike apart from the average American home grown linemen is when football becomes a focal point. What I mean by that is many NFL athletes started their careers in a youth football program like, Pop Warner football. Many start as early as five years old, playing through until Jr. High, then High School, College and the NFL. Iupati lived in American Samoa for the first 14 years of life. As it turns out there is no early football program available to the youth, at least not when Mike was there. Football starts there at the high school level, and moves up from there. So from a football stand point he should be eight or nine years behind.
Upon moving to California, Mike had language barrier issues. Fortunately he was coached by a half Samoan coach named, Odell Harrington. Even being able to move beyond the language in football, his first shot at playing football did not come until his sophomore year, and did not really shine until his junior year. This would put him behind the typical linemen by another year or two.
Due to insufficient grades and a subpar SAT score, he had planned on attending a junior college. Thanks to an Idaho assistant coach, Iupati was convinced to play for the Vandals.
There are currently 30 ethnic Samoans currently playing in the NFL, and more than 200 play at the NCAA level. It is estimated that a Samoan is anywhere from 40 to 56 times more likely to play in the NFL than a non-Samoan American.
Impressed with his work ethic, and physical abilities, the 49ers drafted him in the 2010 draft. During his first season with the 49ers he and Anthony Davis became just the third set of rookies to start every game on the offensive line since the 16 game schedule was instituted in 1978. Along his current path, Mike will be as notable as fellow Samoans Junior Seau, and Troy Polamalu.