NFL success runs in Ellison whānau

Sporting success runs deep in the Ellison family from Ngāi Tahu and two of their stars are back in the country.

Riki Ellison became the first New Zealander to play in the NFL playing for the San Francisco 49ers and his son followed in his footsteps and Rhett plays for the Minnesota Vikings.

Rhett Ellison says, "I like to hit things, so there must be some connection there with the Ellison name, the Ellison bloodline."

“It's pretty neat to have that Māori spirit and Māori fight and Māori warrior, be able to go outside of NZ and compete with the best in America and do well. Rhett's has that blood and I've got that blood and we're very proud of our heritage,” says Riki Ellison.

Rhett Ellison’s great great Uncle Tom Ellison was the first captain of the All Blacks. While his cousins Tamati and Jacob Ellison have played Super 15 rugby, Rhett says he doesn't get to watch too much rugby but enjoys the game.

Rhett Ellison says, "I don't understand it at a level I probably should. My grandfather tries to explain it to me all the time but I think it's just one of those things where you have to play it to almost understand it."

The haka though is a different story.

“I think we did it every day. I'm a little rusty at the moment but once we get all the family together on Sunday I'm sure we'll bust that out,” says Rhett Ellison.

His father Riki played alongside Joe Montana at the San Francisco 49ers and won three Superbowls with the team in the 1980s.

Riki Ellison says, "The All Blacks and the NFL, it's 80% inside your mind, and the game hasn't changed, so it's how to play the game and being able to perform consistently at a top level that sustains you above the res,t aside from your physical skills."

Rhett Ellison plays tight end and fullback for the Minnesota Vikings, and will head into his 4th season with the club with some big decisions to be made in his final year of his contract.

The Blues players were also excited to meet this NFL athlete.

All Black Steven Luatua dabbled in the sport as a when he was younger, so he enjoyed chewing the fat with Rhett.

"We all support different teams in the NFL. To see and hear the stories of what they've been up to is pretty special. Obviously we're in a different code but in another lifetime we'd like to have a crack at that," says Luatua.

Hopefully Rhett Ellison and Riki Ellison’s success can rub off on the Blues before heading back to the States on Monday.

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