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Rockne Freitas recognized by Hawaii State Senate. (Courtesy: Flickr)

Who is Rockne Freitas? NFL's first native-Hawaiian All-Pro passes away at 76

Rockne Freitas, a legend of the game, has passed away at the age of 76. Rocky, as he was affectionately known, was a native Hawaiian from Kailua in Hawaii and became the first NFL player from the state to win All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 1972 while playing as a right tackle for the Detroit Lions.


Rockne Freitas: NFL Career

Rockne Freitas played college football at Oregon State and was selected in the 1967 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, he did not want to terminate his college education prematurely. As a consequence, he never played for them.


Instead, he took his 6'6" frame and 270 pound bulk to the Detroit Lions the following year. He made his name there as a tough tackler but a fair sportsman and his highlight came in 1972 when he made it to both the All-Pro team and the Pro Bowl.

In 1977, he left the Detroit Lions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he played for a single season before retiring. In 2016, he was inducted into the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame.

Rest in peace, 2016 Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Inductee, Rockne Freitas.

Rockne Freitas: Life after the NFL

Freitas' initial decision to return to college after being drafted by the Steelers set the stage for what he would ultimately do after retiring from the NFL.


Rockne Freitas embarked on a 23-year educational career in his native state of Hawaii after completing his career in the NFL. He took leadership roles in Ke Aliʻi Pauahi Foundation, Kamehameha Schools, and GRG Enterprises. He was the chancellor of Hawaii Community College for six years and also became the vice president for university relations at the University of Hawaii. His post-NFL career spoke to his high regard for quality eduction.

Freitas never forgot his football roots as he also served as the athletic director for the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. He was instrumental in moving the University of Hawaii football team from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West Conference during the NCAA realignment in 2010.

He was once again the chancellor at the University of Hawaii at West Oahu from 2013 to 2015 before finally retiring. He was honored by the Hawaii State Senate for his role in the field of education. Although Freitas was a passionate footballer, he never forgot his roots by coming back to his native state of Hawaii and filling the role of an accomplished educator.


His son, Makoa, also pursued a life of football. He was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2003 NFL Draft. The cause of Freitas' death has not yet been revealed.

Edited by
Nicolaas Ackermann
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