NFL star wants fellow Pinoys to excel in American football

By Joey Villar (The Philippine Star)

Posted at Feb 17 2013 03:29 PM | Updated as of Feb 17 2013 11:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Eugene Amano, the first full-blooded Filipino to make it to the United States’ National Football League, is in town.

The 30-year-old Tennessee Titans starting center was special guest in the launching of the ArenaBalls Phl’s fourth season at the Venice Piazza Atrium in McKinley Hill of the Bonifacio Global City yesterday.

“It’s nice to see football expand in the Philippines and you guys are coming up to teach football in the Philippines and I thank you guys for that,” said Amano during the media briefing.

“It’s up to you guys to expand the game and lure the kids to football. I hope in the future I could share some knowledge to you and pass it on to the younger generation,” added Amano, born at the United Doctors Hospital in Manila before his family migrated to the US when he was two months old.

Interestingly, Amano is one of three Philippine-born players listed in the NFL. The others are Fred Jones and the immensely popular Tim Tebow.

Amano, a 6-3, 300-pound athlete, was accompanied by his US-based Filipina wife Frances Santos-Amano and US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr., a big fan of the sport who got to watch the ABP’s third season finale won by three-peat champion Bandits.

“From what I saw, it was a pleasant surprise seeing you guys play. I mean you guys are talented and I hope the league expands and grows even more,” said Thomas, known to be very sports-minded, having brought some Major League Baseball players to the country in the past.

From a four-team league in its inception in 2010, the ABP has grown to eight member teams plus four clubs expressing interest to join.

“We’re getting stronger and bigger. We have eight teams on our fourth year,” said ABP president Dodi Palma.

Palma and the ABP hope Amano would inspire Filipinos especially the kids not just to be aware of the sport but play it like basketball.

“I mean I’ve grown up people telling me that I’m too small and too weak to make it to the NFL but because of the hard work I did and the discipline I’ve shown, I made it through and realized my dream,” said Amano.

Amano’s road to the NFL was not paved with gold.

After attending San Diego in high school and Southeast Missouri State in college, Amano was considered merely “a practice squad prospect” when he applied for the 2004 NFL Draft.

But Amano, ranked as the No. 20 center available in his batch, was eventually selected seventh or 239th overall by the Titans.

He became the first offensive lineman tabbed from Southeast Missouri State since Dan Peiffer.

Amano served primarily as a reserve at both center and guard for four years. He got the opportunity to be on the starting lineup as a left guard after taking over from Jacob Bell.

In 2009, Amano showed he’s worthy of the position as he helped the offensive line that blocked for the NFL’s second-best rushing attack at 162.0 yards per game and allowed just 16 sacks, then the second fewest in the league.

His biggest break came two years back when veteran Kevin Mawae hung up his jersey, paving the way for Amano to assume the center position that he holds till now.

“Work ethic and being a tireless worker – those are the Filipino qualities that I feel I displayed to make it this far. I guess that’s really in our nature,” said Amano.