10 things you need to know about..... Paul Lasike

Paul Lasike. Photo / Getty Images.
Paul Lasike. Photo / Getty Images.

Kiwi Paul Lasike is on the Jarryd Hayne train, and hopefully he'll go a lot further than the Aussie league star did in the NFL.

Lasike, a former Waikato age-grade rugby player, has just been named in the Chicago Bears' final 53-man roster for the gridiron season which starts this week. The Bears first game is away to the Houston Texans on Monday morning (NZ time).

Here's the run down on the new Bears fullback, the latest New Zealand sports person making it Stateside.

1) Lasike, who is on the NFL's minimum rookie wage of $617,000 a year, is set to be the third Kiwi to play in the NFL behind Riki Ellison and David Dixon. Christchurch-born linebacker Ellison, now aged 56, won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers.

Dixon, the former Pukekohe High School first XV captain, had a long career with the Minnesota Vikings. Another NFL player with Kiwi claims is the Tongan Stephen Paea, who was born in Auckland.

He plays for the Cleveland Browns.

2) The 26-year-old Lasike is the ninth of 10 kids in a Kiwi-Tongan family from Glenfield, Stuff reported. He went to Westlake Boys High and then the Mormon Church College in Hamilton. His wife is Ani, a Brazilian. They were married in late 2012 - they met after he turned up early to a barbecue at her place.

3) Lasike, who played league as a little kid, became a very promising rugby centre in the Waikato and in 2007, he was called into a special Sir Brian Lochore national training camp for under-17 players at the Millennium Institute. Fellow camp members were future All Blacks Julian Savea, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Charlie Ngatai.

4) Religion helped pave his way to the NFL. He initially went to the States on a short-term rugby scholarship at Brigham Young University. Brigham Young is named after a 19th century Mormon leader.

5) The Gridiron boys at BYU spotted him after he returned from a two year missionary stint in Alabama. Lasike didn't like Gridiron at first, telling Stuff it was "too frustrating. It's a long sport - three, three-and-a-half-hour games. I didn't really like it at the start, to be honest."

6) Try, try again. Lasike initially made his way into NFL consideration with the Arizona Cardinals when signed as an undrafted free agent (you all know what that is) in May last year. He made the initial cut but after scoring a touchdown in a pre-season game against Denver, he was cut from the final roster the next day. Things did not go well for Lasike when he joined the Bears practice squad a year ago. The Bears forgot foreigners need a new visa every time they switch teams and had to release him a day after he joined.

7) The Chicago Bears of the mid-1980s were one of the most famous teams in NFL history, full of glamour and personalities. But they are in a tough patch, finishing last season with a six win, 10 loss record under new coach John Fox who had a fine record at the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. The Chicago Tribune reckoned: "...besides Fox's reputation, little else about the Bears looks worthy of getting too excited about." And Lasike is joining an offence which was ranked 23rd out of 32 last season and is led by the mercurial, error prone and widely unpopular quarterback Jay Cutler. The Bears had a lot of narrow losses last season, and are expected to improve but not enough to make the playoffs. A wildcard place is their best shot.

8) Lasike was particularly proud to be involved in the February press conference announcing the November 5 match between the All Blacks and Ireland at Soldier Field, the Chicago Bears' home ground.

9) On the shift from rugby to Gridiron, Lasike told the Medill News Service: "I had to gain about (14 kilos) because of my position. Football is more explosive...I had to readjust my conditioning, my eating. I used to eat a lot but I had to eat more...there are just so many plays in football, it's just hard to count. In rugby, you get away with five or six plays and you improvise."

10) He also said: "Do I miss rugby? Yes, absolutely. I miss playing it. I miss wearing shorts and a mouthpiece and that's about it. But I am busy enough with my life right now with football that I don't miss it every day...I miss the camaraderie of rugby."

See how Lasike compares rugby to gridiron, and other interesting stuff, here.

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