Polynesian Jaguars following brings energy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Forget the beat, feel the heat.

Jacksonville Drumline's Sione Tamaseu twirls a machete raging with fire in the Cool Zone Tuesday afternoon, two days before the Jaguars take on the Texans in the big Thursday night matchup.

Tamaseu's been banging on the drums with the Jaguars for the past decade, but this daring act dates back even further to when he unwrapped a "fire knife" on his 16th birthday.

"It's almost like a right-of-passage-type thing," said Tamaseu as he practiced his moves.

But that right of passage brings with it a lot of battle scars.

"Basically when it's on fire, it's like a hot knife through butter, and I'm the butter," he said while laughing, pointing out a giant scar across his chest. He even burned off part of his goatee showing off his skills.

Tamaseu is part of a Polynesian Jaguars following made up of the Jaguars D-Line, fans and even players.

"It's about Aloha spirit. So the way we conduct ourselves on and off the field, we just want to make sure to exemplify that," said Jaguars defensive end Tyson Alualu, who is Samoan and from Hawaii.

Polynesian performer Sarah Oviedo is a big fan of Alualu's.

"I look up to him as a man who has a heart for God and loves his family," Oviedo said. "He's very passionate about his family."

Fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou is also Hawaiian and Tongan.

"It's just a common bond that we're from the islands and just gravitate towards the similar upbringings that we have," he said.

Linebacker John Lotulelei, also Tongan and Hawaiian, recently joined the Jags from the Seattle Seahawks and said he immediately felt at home here.

"That's pretty cool that when I got over here that was a phrase that Coach Gus (Bradley) used was, 'Keepin' it tight. One family, one sound.' It was basically already over here," he said. "I'm happy to be part of this family."

Family translates to the Ohana spirit, meaning strangers are often instant friends.

"Just a bunch of Polynesians get together, everybody calls each other cousins instead of Mr. and Mrs.," said Tamaseu. "We say auntie and uncle and we always try to support all Polynesians, especially in the NFL."

Ben Smith married into the Polynesian culture, but already knew a lot about it.

"You greet people with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. It's a beautiful thing," he said. "I feel like we're kindred spirits, but even though I'm not from Hawaii, just the way things are done is how I think people should do things. I think it's how people should be treated."

It seems like a very happy way of life, proven with all the props Smith brought from home. While standing in the sun on EverBank Field, Smith's kids blew into a conch shell, as Tamaseu said, "This was our first cellphone. We would communicate from village to village, island to island, stuff like that."

Smith played the ukelele as his girls played with poi balls and danced, which has a lot of meaning.

"The lady's shaking her hips in a grass skirt and everything, but really there's a lot of stories being told," Smith said. "The stories are with the hands."

Smith's 9 year-old daughter, Kalia, showed a story she said is about all the children that make up the lovely world they live in.

"Now this is the water and the fish," she said as she knelt down on the grass, moving her hands to the music.

Kalia and her 6-year-old sister regularly perform Hula and Tahitian dances at competitions across the state.

"It's cool," Kalia said, "because I get to show it to other people and maybe encourage them to learn."

Her plan worked for Channel 4's Hailey Winslow, who learned she had to put the skirt on over her head because it's not supposed to touch the ground. And they put a flower in her hair, explaining the flower goes on the right side if you're single and the left side if you're taken. Then they taught her how to hula, only the girls were much better at it than Hailey was.

After their big moves, it was Hailey's turn to get "fired" up. She strapped on her safety goggles (teal Jaguars shades) and nervously touched Tamaseu's machete blade.

"It's dull, but when it's hot it doesn't matter. It'll still cut you," Tamaseu said with a smile.

"What have I got myself into?" Hailey said with a laugh.

And with a quick tip from the pro, she was on fire, almost literally. She flipped the machete in the air, threw it to Tamaseu, and he threw it back.

"What an adrenaline rush! Go Jags!" Hailey said as she caught the fire knife with a grin.

With the attitudes and electricity igniting the cultured crew, it appears they're ready for kickoff.

"The energy is going to be off the charts, the fans are going to be off the charts," said Tamaseu.

Alualu said he had a message for the fans: "Thank you everybody for the support. We got something special going on, so just come out and join."

"Thanks for standing by us," Ta'ufo'ou added. "I think things are starting to come around, and just stick with us and things will get better."

Lotulelei, while smiling, said the secret is "staying positive."

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