The success of Paul Lasike in the National Football League (NFL) should be celebrated by the New Zealand public; yet, doesn’t seem to get the recognition he deserves.
The twenty-six-year-old, moved to the United States on a rugby scholarship to attend Brigham Young University (BYU). Lasike, known for his incredible work ethic, made an immediate impact and guided his team to five national championships.
However, it was not until the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints member returned from his mission after his freshman year, that football presented itself.
After impressing the coaches with his size and speed, Lasike quickly found himself on the team as a running-back, finishing his BYU career with 843 rushing yards in 38 games.
The Westlake Boys High School alumnus was signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free-agent, before being picked up by the Chicago Bears, where he has since been promoted to their active roster as a converted fullback.
With only twenty of the thirty-two teams in the NFL utilising the full-back position, Lasike, deserves credit for excelling at a position many teams do not even have a spot on the roster for.
Dependent on the team’s scheme, the fullback’s primary job is blocking, and it’s perhaps the lack of highlight reel worthy material that Lasike receives such little attention in New Zealand. In comparison, Jarryd Hayne, was the centre of a media storm, after the National Rugby League (NRL) superstar announced his intention to pursue a career in the NFL as a running-back.
The New Zealand media were guilty of prioritising Hayne’s journey to the NFL over that of Lasike’s, who quietly finds himself still part of an NFL roster, where Hayne has since given up on his NFL dream and is back playing in the NRL.
Unfortunately, this is not the only case of Kiwi athletes excelling overseas, yet receiving minimal attention from the New Zealand media. Current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter, and former K-1 World Champion, Mark Hunt, has revealed he feels he does not “get any love from New Zealand” and the media have not acknowledged his accomplishments. Much like Hunt, Lasike, is a victim of excelling in a sport not well practiced in his own country.
The fact Lasike has been successful in a league and sport dominated by Americans is incredibly impressive, and is only the fifth New Zealander to have done so. The NFL is the biggest sporting league in the world, pulling in more revenue than any other league in any other sport, and is consistently voted as America’s favourite sport.
The New Zealand media need to hold themselves accountable for failing to acknowledge some of the country’s best exports. More spotlight needs to placed on athletes like Lasike, and allow the New Zealand public to celebrate Kiwis excelling in sport overseas.
Paul Lasike Highlights from BYU: