Māori Super Bowl winner drops in on Te Aute College

By James Perry

Three time NFL super bowl champion Riki Ellison, shared his experiences with the students and staff of the Hawkes Bay school today.

It was the first time for the former San Francisco 49ers player at the iconic Māori Boarding School, but his familys’ name is synonymous with the college.

"My grandfather went to school here, and my grandfather's brother went to school here. And my great-great-grandfathers sons went to school here.

“So this is a very special moment for me to come back and be on the sacred ground of my family and our iwi," Ellison says.

Among the list of Te Aute old boys that whakapapa to Ellison, was his grand-uncle, Tom Ellison. Ellison was educated there in the 1880s, and then went on to play for New Zealand Natives football team that toured Great Britain and Australia.

They are credited with being the first to add the silver fern, to the now legendary black jersey.

130 years later Riki Ellison's arrival at Te Aute is reinvigorating the Ellison fables. 

"I've heard discussions already between teachers and students about how famous his great grand uncle was," Principal Shane Hiha says.

Another reason the Ngāi Tahu descendant was visiting the school is his desire to bring his Youth Impact Program (YIP) to New Zealand. Ellison founded the program in 2005 which was designed to help mainly male students from inner-city schools in the USA overcome challenges they face in education. 

"What we want to do is to engage their heart and give them a passion for education and a passion for trust.

“I think there's a lot of mistrust between cultures, so we're bridging that aspect of it and we are surrounding them with role-models, with positive role models from their own community," Ellison says. 

He says they have run over 30 programs across the US, helping 3000 students and have created partnerships with 14 universities as well as the NFL. 

"In America, we do it with the student-athletes, we do it with the military and we do it with public school teachers. We surround them for a period of time, 2-3 weeks, every day, 9-5.

"We fed them, we clothe them and we create environments, we create cauldrons of competitiveness and cauldrons of success," Ellison says.

Ellison is holding talks with Hawkes Bay locals this week with the hope of bringing YIP to the region in the future.