NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers Samoan standout JuJu Smith-Schuster setting the NFL alight

Smith-Schuster was named Polynesian Pro Football Player of the Year in his rookie season.
Smith-Schuster was named Polynesian Pro Football Player of the Year in his rookie season. Photo credit: Getty

NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers' standout JuJu Smith-Schuster has been a revelation - both on and off the field - in his rookie season, but the gridiron was not his first love.

The California-born wide-receiver was the Steelers' second-round pick in this season's NFL draft and has become an instant fan favourite.

His 917 receiving yards, numerous franchise record-breaking feats and social media presence has seen his stocks sky-rocket since entering the league.

Smith-Schuster has all the tools to be the NFL's next global superstar, but his meteoric rise started from a humble Polynesian background.

The 21-year-old was born to a large Samoan family and adopted the name 'Schuster' in his surname three years ago to honour step-father Lawrence Schuster, who raised him since he was four years old.

His biological father is no longer in his life, but Smith-Schuster kept the former of the names for his aunt, whom he maintains a relationship with.

Born John, he was given his nickname 'JuJu' by a family member when he was just six months old and it has stuck ever since.

Smith-Schuster leads all rookies in receiving yards and touchdowns this season.
Smith-Schuster leads all rookies in receiving yards and touchdowns this season. Photo credit: Getty

Smith-Schuster's Samoan roots meant his love for sport was inevitable, with a career in rugby looking the likely venture.

He played club rugby growing up, but begrudgingly had to stop before his junior year, after colleges started offering football scholarships.

"I wanted to go professional for rugby, but rugby didn't offer scholarships and if it did, it was half," Smith-Schuster told Fox Sports.

"We couldn't afford it, so I stuck with football."

Scholarship offers provided an opportunity to stay in his home state  and he committed to the University of Southern California.

He had originally intended to attend Oregon, as many players of Polynesian descent had in the past, but announced he would be going to USC in his televised commitment.

Smith-Schuster began his college career with a bang, recording 54 receptions for 724 yards as a true freshman.

A career-high 1454 receiving yards would follow the next season, before racking up 914 receiving yards his junior year.

Smith-Schuster decided to forgo his senior year and declare for the NFL draft, where he was selected 62nd overall by the Steelers and signed a four-year NZ$5.8 million contract.

Despite being drafted as the sixth wide-receiver overall and by a team with the NFL's leading receiver in Antonio Brown, he finished the regular season with more touchdowns and receiving yards than those taken above him.

He is also the youngest player in NFL history to record 1000 all-purpose yards, as well as earning several 'Player of the week' awards, and was eventually named Polynesian Pro Football Player of the Year.

But despite his record-breaking feats, Smith-Schuster refuses to take himself too seriously, as the world learnt when his only mode of transport - a bicycle - was famously stolen.

A series of posts from his Twitter account prompted a city-wide search and he established himself as one of league's best at celebrating touchdowns with a series of references to the stolen bike.

He would eventually get his motor-vehicle licence, but it was too late, as the legend of Smith-Schuster was born, dominating the American sporting networks with both his performances and charisma.

Smith-Schuster now heads into the biggest game of his career, when his side take on the Jacksonville Jaguars for a spot in the AFC Championship.

He will have has work cut-out for him, as he prepares to face the best pass-defence in the NFL, but the Samoan Steeler has already proven he has the mettle to surpass expectations.


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