FLORHAM PARK–From the time the Jets drafted him in 2005, Sione Pouha (Bo-oo-ha), or “Bo” as he is called, had always kept his hair very close cropped or shaved . Then in 2009 his teammates started to notice that it was growing out. Over the last 12 months it has gotten longer and curlier, to the point where he sometimes keeps it pulled back with a hair band. A new style choice? Not exactly.
Pouha’s father, Sonasi, died of pancreatic cancer in 2009. The two had one special moment before he died. “My head was the last thing…before he passed, he hugged my head,” Pouha remembered. “I’ve let it grow ever since then. Every now and then I need a little touch of inspiration, so I touch the ends of my hair.”
Sonasi emigrated from Tonga to the United States in the 1970s. He worked as a migrant worker in Hawaii, until he had saved enough money to send for his wife, Susana, and their three daughters. Practicing Mormons, they moved to Salt Lake City, where the church is based, and in 1979, Pouha was born there, the first of the family to be born in the United States.
Pouha started playing football at the age of nine. He was a standout at East High School in Salt Lake City and subsequently signed a letter of intent with the University of Utah. However, college was put on hold so he could serve on a two-year mission for the Mormon church in Pittsburgh.
Upon completing the mission, he enrolled at Utah and once again showed his football prowess with the Utes. Although Pouha had always loved football, he never gave much thought to playing beyond the college level. He originally thought he might want to become a coach. Then, in his senior year, things changed.
“After the sixth or seventh game an agent called me,” he said. “That’s the first time I ever really thought about [playing in the NFL].”
In 2005, the Jets drafted the defensive tackle in the third round. He performed modestly that year, but then tore his ACL during training camp in 2006, and was placed on injured reserve.
Now in his sixth season, Pouha has become an integral part of the Jets defense. He has played in every game since returning from his ACL injury in 2007. In the last two years, he has stepped seamlessly into the role vacated by consecutive injuries to nose tackle Kris Jenkins.
Pouha also stays busy off the field, chasing after the four young children he has with his wife Keiti, his college sweetheart, whom he married when they were both still attending Utah.
As for life after football, is coaching still on his radar? “No, not really,” he laughed. “I see the hours, I say, I’m all right. I’ll be a productive member of society.”
He’s already preparing for that, starting a drink business called Bula, which is a word of welcome in Fiji. “It’s a relaxation drink,” he said. “The opposite of energy drinks. It’s a combination of Kava and Valerian root. In the Polynesian islands they’ve been using them for 3000 years. We use extracts that come straight from Fiji.”
The drink, which is sold online and in stores in northern California, has taken off, with Pouha doing the lion’s share of the behind-the-scenes work in getting the product off the ground.
At this point, Pouha is certainly not spending a lot of his time relaxing. There’s still too much work to be done – on and off the field.