The Chargers stood around in a circle after a walk thru practice. A new face walked into the middle, as the rest of the players looked on with excitement. Rookie defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko begins doing the dance of his Polynesian people, the haka. It is a symbol of pride, strength, and unity. As Fehoko continues doing the haka, his teammates are following his lead. When he finished, his teammates ran up and got fired up with him.
"It meant a lot," said Fehoko of the moment. "I got to showcase my culture."
His teammates celebrating with him was cool. What was special to Fehoko was the interest that they showed in his Polynesian culture.
"It's them after seeing the haka wanting to learn more about the Polynesian culture," explained Fehoko. "Wanting to learn certain words, want to learn foods we eat, want to learn traditions, and stuff like that. Dez (Desmond) King, we always talk all the time. He's always talking about like 'teach me the haka. Teach me the meanings.' Certain guys around the locker room asking me what my tattoo means, what the meanings of it, and that kind of stuff really sticks with me because that's, that's where you build the bond."
That bond is special for young players trying to find their way on a new team, who already has strong relationships built through moments. Fehoko letting his teammates into his culture is a way of him letting them into his background.
Fehoko grew up in Hawaii with three older brothers, two loving parents, and football. The four boys loved anything that had to do with playing football. Their father, Vili, played semi-pro football. All three of his brothers played D-1 football. Regardless of how much Vili and his brothers loved football, it was never forced on Breiden.
"Whatever we're doing whatever we're doing as a family or as brothers, it somehow always related to football," explained the youngest Fehoko. "Whether we were you know, chillin' at home playing games playing Madden, it was football. Whether we were watching NFL on Sundays, it was football. That's how I really got into it. Just seeing my brothers do it. My brothers compete and be really good at it. To see my father instill it into my brothers. That's what really got me into an early age. And I just knew it. I wasn't forced to play football. I just, it was something I was just like, I got to do it."
He remembers going into Aloha Stadium with his father during the University of Hawaii's football games as a kid. His father was "Vili The Warrior," he would get the crowd excited during the games. Fehoko would join his father and help him excite the crowd. He remembers feeling the crowd's energy, and he couldn't wait to experience it as a player.
He decided to become a Texas Tech Red Raider. He was there for two seasons and decided to transfer to LSU. He sat out the 2017 season. He took that year to learn and
"So, when I first got to LSU, we lost the Troy, my redshirt year, because I had to sit out to transfer rules," said Fehoko. "And so that was like, the lowest of the lowest like, 'Whoa, we just got upset by Troy at home on homecoming night.' So, I've seen the lowest, and then I've seen the highest."
It would get better after that 9-4 season.
In 2018, the Tigers would finish the season 10-3 and win the "Playstation Fiesta Bowl" against Central Florida 40-32. That season would begin an upward trajectory.
"It was player-led from the bottom up," explained Fehoko. "I mean, we had great coaches, don't get me wrong. But accountability on that team last year, the leadership. Coaches didn't have to discipline players. It wasn't a need of a 'where's this guy? Is he late for workouts?' There was none of that going on, and guys just bonded really well. I knew I could trust the guy next to me."
That led to one of the greatest college football seasons of all-time. LSU beat Alabama and Auburn while in the playoffs blowing out Oklahoma and beating Clemson in the National Championship. They went a perfect 15-0 and took home the prize.
"It was a great experience," said Fehoko. "And just to know that I was a part of that and know what it took to get to that level."
Now came the difficult part. The COVID-19 pandemic hit, so Fehoko wasn't able to have a pro day, and he had to find different ways to workout.
As the draft was nearing, Fehoko thought he would hear his name called on national television. He believed that he had the tools and put in the work, but it didn't happen.
That was motivation.
After the draft, he said his phone blew up with teams wanting to sign him as an undrafted free agent. He said it came down to the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Chargers. He and his agent decided to choose the Bolts.
"Best decision I've made," explained Fehoko. "I feel great here. I've learned being around great veterans. I love the environment here. The culture here is great."
When he walked in for training camp and saw his jersey, it reminded him of someone special. His Uncle Junior or as the NFL remembers him, Junior Seau.
"To me, it was just like he's visiting," explained Fehoko. "I didn't know Uncle Junior as the bad mother f linebacker. That people knew on Sunday's. I didn't know he was there for a Pro Bowl."
For him, it is special to be a Chargers player because of his uncle. It is also special for him to carry on the Polynesian legacy that Seau and former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu have left.
"I represent a big lineage of Polynesians that have not just played with the Chargers but in the NFL," explained Fehoko. "I take pride in every day I put on that jersey, and I go up and strap up that helmet. It's a blessing to be here."
He worked hard during training camp. He was able to tell his story when he was featured on Hard Knocks numerous times. Thanks to that, he was able to land a sponsorship deal with "Keep Pursuing." It is a company that features luxury luggage and handbags.
Their most popular item is their "Patented Zero-G 4-pointed suspension strap system." It helps reduce the weight on the shoulders by 25%, which can help a lot with all the weights and exercises players do.
So why Breiden Fehoko?
"He is driven, unstoppable, keeps pushing and motivated, which aligns with our brand "Keep Pursuing," explained Keep Pursuing CEO Vi Lee. "In reading his stories & seeing his triumph on Hard Knocks, we were inspired and thought he would be a great fit."
Fehoko is a brand ambassador for the company.
"First off, the name caught my eye," said Fehoko. "Second, it was very relative to where I am in life right now. Where I feel like my status is, I'm trying to climb the ladder, the underdog. And so, when 'Keep Pursuing' came into the picture, it was like mix and match. It was like a match made in heaven kind of deal. I love what they stood for. I love the brand. I love the logo. I love the product. And then here I am just kind of just complimenting into it with my story, and we mesh together."
Fehoko is on the practice squad right now with the Bolts. He continues to learn from veterans like Linval Joseph and Damion Square. He is staying ready because with everything going on with the pandemic, his number could be called at any time.
For now, all he can do is be there for his teammates and try to bring some of the mentality that helped LSU win the National Championship.
"I can definitely help replicate as much ideas and as much characteristics that were on that team last year," explained Fehoko. "I can replicate it now to help my team win. And just do my part. Whether it's positive self-talk or positive uplifting around the locker room, whatever I can do and take from what I learned last year and put it into what I can do this year. With the Chargers, just do my 1% That's it. That's definitely my takeaways from last year's team."