Tamba Hali: Refugee to NFL Pro Bowler


Tamba Hali’s journey began on November 3, 1983, when he was born to parents Rachel Keita and Henri Hali in Liberia. Growing up in Liberia, Hali recalled that his family did not have running water or electricity. When Hali was 6, a civil war tore apart the country and violence and death became a constant reminder of the hell he was living in. When Hali was 10, he fled Liberia with his three brothers and sisters to reunite with his father, who had already escaped to the United States a few years prior. Sadly, Tamba had to leave his mother behind with the hopes that they would be reunited one day.

As an immigrant Hali knew nothing would be handed to him, so he worked. By the time he reached high school Tamba was lettering in both basketball and football, which served as a testament to his work ethic and determination. Hali was the fifth-ranked strong-side defensive lineman in the nation in 2002, and his impressive high school career helped him secure an athletic scholarship with football powerhouse, Penn State.

Hali stayed in college for all four years, working hard for more playing time and a window of opportunity. In his senior year Tamba finally got his chance, and he broke out. He was the driving force behind the Nittany Lions’ 11-1 season and led the Big Ten with 11 sacks and 17 tackles for loss.

After being named the defensive MVP in the 2006 Senior Bowl, Hali entered the 2006 NFL Draft ranked as the third-rated defensive end and was selected 20th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. Tamba impressed his team right from the start, and earned himself the starting position of defensive end and the nickname, “The TambaHawk.” During his rookie season Hali had 8 sacks and 5 forced fumbles for the Chiefs, and he also became a permanent United States Citizen that same year. This gave him the opportunity to finally reunite with his mother, and she saw her son play for the first time as the Chiefs destroyed the San Francisco 49ers, 41–0 with Tamba anchoring the defense.

Tamba Hali has been nothing short of amazing for the Chiefs since they drafted him. Additionally, he made the Pro Bowl for 5 consecutive seasons and is also one of the NFL’s best community members. Tamba Hali is the epitome of “The American Dream,” and his inspirational journey is a reminder that through hard work and dedication, anything is possible.

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