Vai Sikahema, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints (often referred to as “the Mormon Church”), is a pro football player, a Golden Gloves boxer, journalist, and ecclesiastical leader. He was born in Tonga, and as a boy, he crossed the ocean in an open boat with his family.
As a student in the U.S., he learned English on the fly by watching TV. He played on Brigham Young University’s (BYU) national champion winning football team in 1984 and went on to become the first Tongan to play in the NFL. He spent a decade in the NFL, and shortly after his career ended, he became a sportscaster.
He later became a midday news anchor for NBC’s channel 10 news in Philadelphia. When he retired late last year after 25 years of service, Philadelphia’s NBC10 devoted 40 minutes of airtime to the man who came to their city as a Philadelphia Eagle and stayed for over 26 years.
During the 189th annual general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held in late May 2019, Sikahema was called to serve as an Area Seventy. However, before that happened, he had to overcome fears and doubts — about himself. Following his call, Elder Vai Sikahema told Deseret News columnist Doug Robinson, “I’m willing to give everything I’ve got, and I just don’t know if it’s enough. I don’t have the gilded résumé.”
He went on to explain that many leaders in the church have MBAs and Ivy League educations; many were captains of industry, with managerial experience leading big companies, or professionals who had ascended to the top of their professions. He said, “I was a horrible student. I played football. I anchor the news on TV.”
In a video segment about his life’s journey, Elder Sikahema stated, “I’ve raised my kids here. I became a grandfather while living and working in Philadelphia. But now it’s time to begin the next chapter of my life and it has to do with a higher calling that’s central to who I am.”
When asked about the next step in his life, he said, “I read scripture every day. Every day I read from the Book of Mormon and I read from the Bible. And I’ve done it [since I was] a child. It helps informs the decisions that I make in my life—daily and the big ones like retirement and I just like it was the right time and I felt prompted to do that.”
Several segments of the video tribute highlighted the great work Elder Sikahema and his family have done through the Vai Sikahema Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the support adoption and other youth related charitable causes.
Elder Sikahema also shared his testimony about temples and why his faith means so much to him. He said, “My church work just feels more and more rewarding. It’s probably a function of our age and where we are in our lives. But I just feel like there’s more for me to give there and there’s not that much more for me to give in my professional life.”