New Lions OT Giovanni Manu draws inspiration from All-Pro Penei Sewell

USA Today

Giovanni Manu has a very interesting path to becoming a fourth-round pick of the Detroit Lions. From a boy growing up in Tonga to playing high school basketball in western Canada, it’s a very unusual background for an NFL offensive lineman.

Manu is a proud Tongan, and his Polynesian heritage is fiercely important to him. That’s something he’s got in common with the man he’s now backing up in Detroit, All-Pro right tackle Penei Sewell, who is of Samoan heritage.

Tonga and Samoa are near one another in the South Pacific. Manu noted that proximity when talking about how appreciative he is to land in Detroit with Sewell. Manu considers him a massive role model and influence on his life.

“Yeah, I look up to Penei a lot. I do study a lot of his film,” Manu tolkd reporters over draft weekend. “I think he’s the best tackle in the league right now. He moves so fluid for how big he is and not just that, but he’s an inspiration to the Polynesian community.”

Manu specifically cited Sewell’s draft process and how open he was about encouraging kids just like him.

“I remember when I was in college, I watched his Draft Day process, and it was just basically a vlog of his whole day of being drafted. I remember he ended the vlog by saying, ‘Any Polynesian kids out there,’ and he named all the islands and I remember he said Tonga. He said, ‘If you kids out there want to make it to the NFL, you can truly make it if you put your mind to it.’

And I remember I was in my second year of college when he said that, and I remember him saying that. It really motivated me, and I told myself, ‘If one of my fellow Polynesian brothers can make it, which is him – and he’s giving me words of motivation, there’s no reason why I can’t do it either.’ So, he’s a true inspiration, not only to Samoa, but to the whole Polynesian community. And it’s great that I’ll be playing with a guy like that, and I just hope to soak up as much information and technique from him.”

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