Joe’s Quirky Link To NFL Legend

Brisbane Broncos NRL

Joe Anthony Young Ofahengaue jnr is named after two of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time so it is no surprise the Brisbane Broncos prop has more than a passing interest in Monday’s Super Bowl LII between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

San Francisco won’t be playing, but 49ers legends Joe Montana and Steve Young will play a part of the 22-year-old Ofahengaue’s life, or name at least, for the rest of his days.

Joe’s father Josh, a mad keen San Francisco 49ers fan, takes up the story.

It was 1995 and Montana had retired the previous year, with Young the starting quarterback for San Francisco.

When Josh and his wife Kathy welcomed a son on September 15 of that year, Josh had a feeling he was going to be “something special”.   

“I originally wanted to name him Joe Montana Young Ofahengaue jnr,” Josh grinned.

“All my family lives in San Francisco and we go there yearly, so I’ve always followed the 49ers.

“Joe’s uncle Anthony had helped us out a lot and he wanted me to name him after him, so I put Anthony’s name in there to honour him.

“I had to take ‘Montana’ off, which was disappointing, but I still got Steve Young in there.

“I was determined to name my son after my two favourite players, and Montana and Young were two of the great quarterbacks.”

How Joe Ofahengaue got his name had been a mystery to the man himself until recently.

“I’d been wondering for 10 years who ‘Joe’ was in our family because in the Tongan culture our parents always name their kids after someone in the family, and all of my siblings are named after uncles or aunties,” Joe told NRL.com.

“I popped the question to my dad a couple of years ago and he told me the full story, and I was kind of buzzed out by it.

“I never saw Joe Montana play but I do know he is one of the greats, and that Steve Young was up there with him.

“When I went to America I wanted to watch Jarryd Hayne play for the 49ers but he got dropped the day we were there. We watched one of the San Francisco games anyway, and because we have so much family there I still root for the 49ers.”

Montana, known as “Joe Cool”, won four Super Bowls in the 1980s and was MVP in three of them.

Young was the starting quarterback in the 49ers’ last championship triumph at the end of the 1994 season in Super Bowl XXIX, where he was also claimed the MVP award.

That success was soon to be reflected in the clothing worn by a young Joe.

“Our family in the San Francisco Bay area would bring clothes over to New Zealand and I ended up wearing a lot of 49ers gear,” he chuckled.

“I had a 49ers baby outfit my aunty bought for me in America, and my older brother’s baby was wearing it a couple of years ago when he turned one, so that was pretty cool.”

A young Joe Ofahengaue shows off his San Francisco 49ers gear.
A young Joe Ofahengaue shows off his San Francisco 49ers gear.

Montana wore the No.16 jersey, which the 49ers subsequently retired.

In remarkable symmetry, Ofahengaue has worn the same number for the Broncos 29 times out of 47 NRL games.

“It is probably just a massive coincidence,” Joe grinned.

“If I had any skill like Joe Montana I’d probably not be playing this sport, but I’m not hoping to keep number 16 forever.

“Hopefully I can push myself to get a number eight or a 10, but 16 will do for now. Anything to be in the 17.”

Ofahengaue said because of the timing of Monday’s Super Bowl on the morning when the Broncos usually train, many of the players will pre-record the clash between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles and catch it later.

He is a big fan of Tom Brady, the 40-year-old Patriots quarterback who has won five Super Bowls and four Super Bowl MVP awards.

“One of my old teammates Ben Hunt, his team is the Patriots, so whenever they are in the finals I kind of jump on the bandwagon because of him,” Joe said.

“I reckon Tom Brady can do it again and will win it for the Patriots.

“For the position he plays I don’t think it matters how old he is. He still has a good pass and a good sports IQ, so I think he can go on for another five years.”

Joe’s father Josh, the brother of Wallabies legend Willie Ofahengaue, played first-grade league with Marist Saints in New Zealand and represented Tonga in the early 1990s.

He aspired to be an NRL player himself but is now happy to live his own dreams through his son.

“Joe was 13 or 14 pounds and nearly a week overdue when he was born, with a big head and shoulders,” Josh said.

“You see a big Islander boy and you know he is going to be a rugby or rugby league player and something special.

“In 2015 when Joe made his NRL debut against the Sharks, Wayne Bennett called me and said ‘we are going to play your son’. I was crying. I thought ‘is this for real?’.”

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