November 12, 2019
By Mike Guardabascio
Long Beach Poly’s roster lists senior James “Chubba” Maae with a series of numbers: he wears jersey number 53, he’s 6’2”, and he weighs 335 pounds.
As significant as those numbers may be, they don’t tell the story of Maae’s significance to the Jackrabbits’ football program. The captain has played all over the team’s offensive line and has been dominant at defensive tackle as well, impacting almost every play of every game. His skill and size have earned him several Division 1 scholarship offers, but even that info doesn’t fully tell the story.
“He’s a real leader, and he does everything the right way,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee after a recent practice. “You want a whole team full of James Maaes.”
Maae started playing tackle football at the age of four, when his uncle told his mom to bring him out to the Long Beach Browns, since Maae already towered over most other kids his age. His nickname came from his cousin, Samoana Poyer.
“When I was born, everyone called me ‘chubs,’” he said. “She couldn’t say it, she kept calling me ‘Chubba,’ so it just stuck.”
His first year of football, Maae played at fullback. Since then, he’s been a lifelong lineman, playing on offense and defense, and learning to appreciate both. He’s a ferocious competitor and is often cheered by his teammates as he plows a defender 20 yards downfield on a block. But he’s also a happy warrior, quick to put his arm around a teammate literally and metaphorically.
“He’s everyone’s friend, but he holds everyone accountable,” said Barbee. “He’s the hardest worker on the team, and he leads by example, not by talking–on the field, and in the classroom. He makes sure everyone feels at home, whether you’re a freshman or a senior.”
The above characteristics all apply to Maae, but they also apply to other Polynesian players to have come through Poly over the years. Maae is a leader in his community as well, having been chosen by teammates and coaches to lead the team’s pre-game “patia” chant.
One of the joys at Poly for Maae this year has been the influx of Polynesian players in the program’s lower levels. For decades, Polynesian players filled Poly’s roster, but their presence had waned in the last few years.
“When I was younger all my cousins played here, and I would shadow them at school, there was a whole bunch of Samoans,” he said. “The last few years, there weren’t that many of us–it’s great know, it’s like having a family away from home.”
Barbee is happy to have more Polynesian players involved this year, and to have a senior leader among their ranks.
“The Polynesian community had dwindled a little when I got here,” he said. “We had five players in the program–this year we have 31. As a culture and a community they bring a sense of hard work and honesty and family. There are high expectations, and James has been a big part of bringing everyone together.”