Rookie safety Shalom Luani finds home with Raiders

Updated August 29, 2017 - 10:28 am

OAKLAND, Calif. — The first residence Shalom Luani called home in California was a two-bedroom house he shared with about 20 other Polynesian men. Each paid less than $100 per month for rent. Mattresses littered the floor. Luani slept in the garage for months until the landlord one day surveyed the property.

Everyone promptly was evicted.

Five years later, Luani soon will rent again.

The rookie Raiders safety and seventh-round pick will learn this week whether he made the team’s 53-man roster. He is one of 90 on the club now, as roster cutdowns are due Saturday afternoon. Luani appears all but a lock to land a home with the Raiders, a development that will move him from a hotel into his own accommodations.

Off the field and on it, Luani has come a long way.

A main reason could be summarized with one word: instincts.

Instincts as a teenager compelled him to take a chance, leave his family and home in Pago Pago, American Samoa, to pursue a football career. He starred at safety while playing on the U.S. territory’s all-star team. This led to an opportunity in 2012 to join the football program at Chabot College, located in Hayward, California, just south of the Raiders’ facility.

There, Luani was accepted as part of a close-knit Polynesian community. He shared lodging with teammates in a crowded house for one semester.

Two men slept to one mattress. Food was shared between occupants, the nourishment either purchased by a house member or donated by a family in the community. Neither lasted long. The busiest room in the mornings wasn’t the kitchen but the bathroom; anyone hoping to avoid cold showers or long lines had to hurry.

“You got to wake up early — whoever is first, then you go ahead,” Luani said.

On most nights, Luani shared his mattress on the garage floor with Lolani Fa’aloua, an eventual transfer to Mt. San Antonio College. It wasn’t exactly a spacious setup; Fa’aloua was listed on the school’s roster as a 6-foot-1-inch, 290-pound defensive tackle. And their mattress was one of two in the garage.

Fa’aloua joked Monday the overall arrangement was “hell,” but he described positives that Luani himself acknowledges.

“It was fun because we all knew each other from back home and the struggle we’ve been through,” Fa’aloua said. “We helped each other and worked together a lot. We shared food and tons of families out in Hayward helped us pay for electricity and donated some stuff to us. Being away from family was hard for all of us, but staying with the boys and the way we treated each other, we all felt we were with family.”

After the eviction, the roughly 20 roommates largely disseminated.

Luani and others moved in with a Polynesian family in Alameda.

He was part of a group that tried out for San Francisco City College and made the team. His instincts on the field were quickly apparent, starting as a freshman and being named a team captain as a sophomore. He transferred to Washington State where, once again, he started in his first season and was named a team captain during his second year in 2016.

The Raiders drafted Luani largely for those play-making instincts.

His feel for the game is that much more impressive considering he was an accomplished soccer player, too, in his youth. He scored the decisive goal in Samoa’s first FIFA-sanctioned victory in 2011 against Tonga.

“He is a really instinctive young man, kind of a ball magnet, kind of just tracks the ball, finds the ball,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “Good instincts, active. … He’s one of those young players that you’re excited about developing.”

“You never, ever want to over-coach a guy that has great instincts,” said John Pagano, the assistant head coach in charge of defense. “You want to let him see ball, go get ball and have the ability. (Luani) has a great knack right now for getting around the football, and it’s been since OTAs, since he’s been here in rookie camp (in May). So it’s been exciting.”

Remembering his roots

This preseason, Luani has flashed on special teams and when roaming the Raiders’ secondary.

Off the field, there is little flash to him.

He is a quiet learner, someone who closely watches veteran teammates like safety Reggie Nelson. He is soft-spoken and exudes a calmness in his demeanor. A game check likely will go a long way with him. Before taxes and other dues, he is scheduled to receive $27,353 per week of the season.

“Even though I’ll be making a lot of money, I’m still a cheap person,” Luani said. “I still go to Ross and buy stuff now and then. I can’t change who I am.”

He vows not to forget, either.

Luani remembers the island from which he came. He remembers his family. The 23-year-old takes pride in his heritage, something he displayed this month to the entire Raiders organization when he performed the haka, a ritualistic war dance, onstage at a team function during training camp in Napa, California.

Upon making the Raiders’ roster, he plans to leave the team hotel and rent a house with enough space for his family to visit. He also wants to purchase a house, too, back in American Samoa.

“I just want to get my parents a house,” said Luani, who grew up with three sisters and two brothers. “We never owned a house our whole life, running around with uncles and aunties. It was really a struggle growing up, moving from place to place. That’s one goal I’m trying to get, just be able to provide for own house on our land. That’s one of my biggest goals.”

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

Raiders Videos
Raiders Make Trades, Let Go Of Players During Free Agency - VIDEO
As NFL free agency continues, the Raiders continue to build off of acquiring Steelers player Antonio Brown. Vegas Nation host Cassie Soto and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken go over all of the key acquisitions and signings as well as who was let go of the roster.
Latin Chamber of Commerce hosts Las Vegas sports leaders
The Fourth Annual Latin Chamber of Commerce Business and Networking Luncheon hosted a panel of sports leaders to discuss the economic power of sports in Las Vegas and their contributions to the Latino community. (Michael Quine / Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Antonio Brown Raiders Press Conference Highlights - VIDEO
Antonio Brown gives his first press conference as a Raider from the team's headquarters in Alameda, California on March 13, 2019. (Courtesy: The Raiders)
Raiders Trade for Antonio Brown - VIDEO
Former Steelers' WR Antonio Brown will be making his way to Oakland after a late-night trade between the two organizations was made public.
Mike Mayock Settling in as Raiders' GM
As the NFL Combine is in full swing, Raiders beat writer for the Las Vegas Review- Journal Michael Gehlken gives us an update from Indianapolis regarding Mike Mayock and his roll as the Raiders' general manager.
Mike Mayock set for first NFL Scouting Combine with Raiders - VIDEO
How Mike Mayock will approach the NFL Scouting Combine might be a mystery, given this combine is his first as Raiders general manager and a league front-office employee, if not for the hours of conference calls, news conferences and real-time TV commentary he has produced.
Las Vegas musician Rick Maiani writes promotional theme song for Raiders
Las Vegas musician Rick Maiani talks about writing a theme song for the NFL's Raiders, his musical background and having been high school teammates with UNLV legend Randall Cunningham. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders stadium construction not slowed by rain and snow
Raiders stadium in Las Vegas continues to take shape without little to no impact from the winter storm that passed through the Valley on Wednesday and Thursday this week. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Vegas Nation Stadium Show: Did the Weather slow down construction?
The Raiders stadium in Las Vegas has made significant progress over the past month, and Review-Journal writers Ed Graney, Rick Vellota and Mick Akers go over all the updates including what name of the stadium may potentially be.
Kelsey Martinez no longer listed on Raiders’ coaching staff
Kelsey Martinez, the first female assistant in Raiders history, is no longer listed as with the organization, according to the team’s website. Martinez joined the club in March 2018 under Tom Shaw, the department’s then-coordinator who was dismissed in December. Before joining the Raiders, Martinez worked for 4 years at Tom Shaw Performance at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando. The Raiders did not return requests for comment on Martinez’s status.
Monorail extension will likely not be finished for Raiders 2020 opener
The planned extension to the Las Vegas Monorail system, has not even broken ground yet, and will likely not be completed in time for the Raiders season opener in 2020. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Limo Driver Dan Holmgren Fired
Dan Holmgren was terminated as a Las Vegas limousine driver for leaving his car to chat with Raiders owner Mark Davis and president Marc Badain in front of Caesars Palace on Jan. 28. Dan gives his story to Elaine Emerson in the RJ Studio.
Raiders Stadium Roads
A bevy of road projects that will impact travel to and from the Las Vegas stadium are planned to occur even after the stadium opens in 2020.
Roger Goodell Addresses Media About Raiders Next Season - VIDEO
Roger Goodell addresses media about where the Raiders will play next year and the controversial Rams vs Saints game. Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken and Vegas Nation host Cassie Soto go over the details.
Senior Bowl a valuable scouting opportunity for Raiders - VIDEO
The Raiders are looking for better defensive prospects at the Senior Bowl due to the results of the 2018 season. Michael Gehlken goes over what the Raiders general manager and head coach are looking for at this years Senior Bowl.
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Senior Bowl Practice Moved Inside Due To Weather - VIDEO
Day three of the Senior Bowl was moved inside for practice due to weather in Alabama. Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken goes over what players the Raiders are looking out for at the Senior bowl.
Vegas Nation Stadium Show: Retractable Field Update - VIDEO
Much like the Arizona Cardinals field, the Raiders will also be playing on a field tray that can be retracted in order to maintain real grass. Vegas Nation host Cassie Soto and Las Vegas Review- Journal reporter Rick Velotta discuss the latest updates regrading the Las Vegas Stadium as well as the groundbreaking of the Raiders headquarters in Henderson.
Raiders Henderson Practice Facility Render - VIDEO
Video of the Raiders practice facility that will be built in Henderson Nevada.
Raiders Headquarters Groundbreaking Ceremony - VIDEO
The Raiders make Henderson their new home with a groundbreaking ceremony. Derek Carr and many other players past a present came together to celebrate the new location. Cassie Soto and Ed Graney report from Henderson, Nevada.
Former Raider James Harris says fans will follow the team "to the moon" - VIDEO
The Oakland Raiders will play in Las Vegas when their team's move is completed in 2020. Former Raiders' defensive end and Las Vegan, James Harris, says fans will follow and support the team "to the moon".
Jim Plunkett on the Raiders' move to Las Vegas, changes under Gruden
At the groundbreaking ceremony for the Raiders new headquarters in Henderson, Nevada, former quarterback Jim Plunkett gave his thoughts on the new facility, the team's move to Las Vegas and what the future holds for the team with head coach Jon Gruden.
JT The Brick says where he thinks the Raiders should play in 2019
At the Raiders headquarters groundbreaking ceremony in Henderson, Nevada, radio host J.T. The Brick gave his take on where he thinks the team should play in 2019 and provided his thoughts on their three, first-round draft picks and more.
Raiders Hold Groundbreaking Ceremony For Henderson Practice Facility
The Raiders hold a groundbreaking ceremony in Henderson for the new practice facility for the teams move to Las Vegas.
A quick look at the Raiders HQ in Henderson
The Raiders held a groundbreaking ceremony for their Las Vegas headquarters, which is based in Henderson, on Monday, Jan. 14th.
Designers of Raiders Field Learn Lessons from Cardinals
The retractable grass in the future home of the Raiders will look largely like an updated and improved version of the field tray system used at State Farm Stadium, home of the Phoenix Cardinals. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Nation: Mahomes Throws his 50th TD in Victory over the Raiders
The Oakland Raiders lose the last game of the season to the Kansas City Chiefs 35-3. Pat Mahomes throws his 50th touchdown and the Chiefs take first place in the division. Cassie Soto is in studio and Michael Gehlken and Ed Graney report from Kansas City.
Raiders look ahead to next season after loss to Chiefs
After the Oakland Raiders' 35-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, players analyze their play and look ahead to what they can do better in the next season.
Vegas Nation: Raiders hire Mike Mayock as new GM
Raiders beat reporter describes newly-hired general manager's opening press conference.
Vegas Nation: Players receive signing bonuses
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken explains why four players received roster bonuses and what that means for their respective futures on the roster.
Vegas Nation Mailbag: Will the Raiders play in Oakland next season?
The Raiders get an emotional win against the Denver Broncos. The game was potentially the Raiders last time playing in the colosseum due to a lawsuit from the city of Oakland. Elaine Wilson and Ed Graney go over the Raider Nation reaction to the game an news.
Vegas Nation: Miller and Parker draw praise
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken takes a look at Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker's Monday Night Football performance against the Denver Broncos.
Vegas Nation: Raiders to face Chiefs in season finale
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken describes how the team is doing after their emotional win over the Denver Broncos, and how they're preparing for the last game of the year in Kansas City.
Raiders Win Emotional Game Against Broncos - Vegas Nation
The Oakland Raiders win their Monday Night football game against the Denver Broncos. This game is potentially the last time the Raiders will play in Oakland before coming to Las Vegas. Vegas Nation host Cassie Soto, Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken and Ed Graney go over the emotional win.
Carr, Gruden reflect on what could be the last game played in Oakland
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr comment on what could be the the last home game the team played at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Raiders locker room after victory over Broncos
Raiders players Jalen Richard, Lee Smith, Karl Joseph, and Erik Harris react to defeating the Denver Broncos in what could be the final game at the Oakland Coliseum.
Raiders fans react to possible final game in Oakland
Raiders fans from around the country respond to the team potentially playing their final game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum prior to Monday night's game against the Denver Broncos.
Home Front Page Footer Listing