Haloti Ngata was one of the greatest defensive linemen in Baltimore Ravens franchise history.
Ngata certainly belongs in the Ravens’ Mt. Rushmore of defensive linemen along with Michael McCrary, Kelly Gregg, and Trevor Pryce.
Ngata, a former high school rugby player, terrorized quarterbacks and offensive linemen for nine seasons in Charm City from 2006 to 2014.
In fact, his fondest pro football memory was breaking Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s nose during the 2010 NFL season.
With Ngata anchoring the defensive line, John Harbaugh’s Ravens were a perennial Super Bowl contender during Ngata’s nine-year tenure in Baltimore.
Baltimore eventually won its second Vince Lombardi Trophy in franchise history at the end of the 2012 season, thanks in large part to the gargantuan Ngata.
This is Haloti Ngata’s inspiring and unforgettable football story.
Etuini Haloti Ngata was born to parents Solomone and Ofa in Inglewood, CA on January 21, 1984. He has three brothers: Finau, Vili, and Junior. He also has a sister named Ame.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Jeffri Chadiha, Haloti’s mom and dad immigrated to the United States from Tonga before he entered the world in the mid-1980s.
Ngata inherited his athletic genes from his older relatives. His father Solomone was a renowned boxer in Tonga while his uncle Haloti Moala played for the Utah Utes during his college days.
Solomone Ngata sometimes juggled two or three jobs at a time to feed his wife and five children. He eventually thought becoming a driver could help make ends meet.
Unfortunately, Solomone flunked his driver’s license test in his first two attempts. One day, when Haloti was at rugby practice, Solomone honked his semi-truck’s horn and parked at his son’s high school.
A jubilant Solomone raised his hands. The third time was the charm for him—he finally passed his driver’s license test.
Haloti Ngata attended Highland High School in Salt Lake City, UT. He was a two-sport star who excelled in rugby and football for the Highland Rams.
Rugby was Ngata’s first love. Haloti already weighed 250 pounds as a high school rugby player. His tenacious play on the rugby pitch helped the Rams win the National Rugby Championship in his senior season.
Haloti Ngata played rugby as an 18-year-old high school kid at the Highland Rugby Club in Salt Lake City, Utah. He led his team to the National Rugby Championship, but was red carded in the title match. #wpmoychallenge + Ngata #wpmoychallenge + Ngata #wpmoychallenge + Ngata pic.twitter.com/vN15sTJjDo
— Eric Moala-Liava’a🇺🇸🇹🇴 (@ericmoala1) December 16, 2017
Unfortunately, Haloti did not finish the match because he drew a red card from the officials—an action that merited automatic disqualification.
Rugby’s violent nature toughened up Haloti. This toughness eventually carried onto the gridiron well into his pro football career.
Larry Wilson, Haloti’s Rams head football coach, became an important father figure in his life.
Wilson’s history with the Ngata family went back almost two decades. He served as an assistant coach of the Utah Utes football team in the mid-1980s.
Wilson eventually crossed paths with Utes linebacker Haloti Moala—the uncle who Haloti Ngata got his name from—during their time together in Utah.
When Wilson became the Rams’ head football coach, he asked Moala to become part of his coaching staff.
This happened around the time when 13-year-old Haloti Ngata left his original hometown of Inglewood, CA, and settled in Salt Lake City, UT.
Ngata’s repeated tardiness and sub-par grades soon wore thin on Wilson during Haloti’s sophomore year in 2000, per The Detroit News’ Tony Paul.
Wilson took matters into his own hands. He called Haloti’s parents and scheduled a meeting with them and their son on the school premises.
Wilson cut to the chase—he told Haloti that if he had any aspirations of making it to the NFL someday, he had to lay the foundation first. It all started with excelling in the classroom and on the high school gridiron.
Haloti let Wilson’s words sink in. He took them to heart and eventually got his act together. He didn’t give his coaches any issues after that conversation. In fact, he finished high school with an impressive 3.4 GPA, per The Detroit News.
Haloti Ngata started at defensive tackle for Wilson during the last three years of his high school football career.
With Ngata’s exemplary pass-rushing prowess, the Rams won 12 games and reached the state finals in 2000. He eventually earned Utah Gatorade Player of the Year honors and became a USA TODAY First-Team All-USA selection that year.
Haloti picked up where he left off and racked up 200 tackles as a senior in 2001. The Rams made the state quarterfinals in Ngata’s last year with the team.
Rivals.com gave Ngata a five-star rating and named him the second-best defensive tackle prospect in the country following his senior season.
Consequently, several big-name college football programs recruited Haloti. He whittled down his shortlist to the BYU Cougars and the Oregon Ducks.
Although Ngata was a devout Mormon, he chose Oregon over BYU.
Before long, Haloti Ngata would become one of the greatest defensive linemen in Oregon Ducks football program history.
College Days with the Oregon Ducks
Haloti Ngata attended the University of Oregon in Eugene, OR from 2002 to 2005. He suited up for Oregon Ducks head football coach Mike Bellotti.
Ngata showed Ducks fans that he was the real deal. Bellotti made him one of his starting defensive tackles in his fifth game. Haloti had an impressive seven sacks in games against the Idaho Vandals and the Ducks’ in-state rivals, the Oregon State Beavers, in 2002.
Haloti was also solid on special teams. He blocked kicks in games against the UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans, and Washington Huskies that year.
Ngata, who finished his true freshman campaign with 3.5 sacks, earned First-Team Freshman All-American honors. He also received the Len Casanova Award as Oregon’s best first-year player.
Oregon had a 7-6 win-loss record in Haloti’s true freshman season in 2002. The Ducks lost to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the 2002 Seattle Bowl, 38-17.
Although Ngata’s college football career got off to a fast start, his personal life took a massive hit.
Haloti and his family experienced unspeakable tragedy at the end of his true freshman season. His dad, Solomone, perished in a fatal truck accident in December 2002.
Solomone had been delivering waste bins to various construction venues for Metro Waste for two years prior to the tragic accident.
Onlookers saw Ngata’s truck roll into a canal in Salt Lake City, UT. The truck spilled approximately 40 gallons of fuel into the canal. The witnesses went for a closer look and saw Ngata trapped inside his vehicle.
Sadly, Solomone died at the scene. He was 45 years old. Kelly Chatterton, the business owner’s son, described him as “one of the gentlest giants you’ll ever meet” to the Deseret News‘ Derek Jansen.
According to the Detroit Free Press‘s Dave Birkett, Solomone had asked Haloti if he wanted to tag along with him at work that fateful morning.
Haloti declined his father’s offer because he had to work out and go on a lunch date with his girlfriend, Christina.
Solomone’s death weighed heavily on his wife, Ofa. She was emotionally distressed and did not make her health a priority, per Sports Illustrated.
Before long, Ofa Ngata had kidney trouble—a typical side effect of diabetes. Unfortunately, she would not live long enough to see Haloti enter the NFL ranks in the spring of 2006.
After Haloti wrapped up his true freshman season at Oregon, he flew back to Salt Lake City, UT to take care of his ailing mother, Ofa, per Chadiha.
When Haloti returned to Eugene, OR, he tore his ACL during a special teams play in the season opener against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. He had to sit out for the rest of the 2003 NCAA season.
Ngata’s injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
It had only been nine months since Haloti’s father Solomone passed away. Ngata did a lot of soul-searching during this dark period of his life.
Haloti was also so distraught after his father’s tragic death that he even considered leaving Oregon.
Fortunately, his high school football coach, Larry Wilson, intervened in a timely manner.
Wilson told Haloti that the local Salt Lake City, UT community would rally behind him and his family. Haloti had a change of heart and remained with the Ducks.
“That’s when God humbled me,” Ngata, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, told the Desert News’ Aaron Shill in the summer of 2010.
With Ngata watching from the sidelines, the Ducks won eight games in Bellotti’s sixth year at the helm. Unfortunately, Oregon lost to the Minnesota Gophers in the 2003 Sun Bowl, 31-30.
Although Haloti’s injured knee didn’t recover fully until midway through the 2004 NCAA season, he played like a man possessed.
Haloti recorded a career-high eight tackles against the Arizona Wildcats in 2004. He also recorded forced fumbles against the Washington Huskies and the Oregon State Beavers.
Ngata finished the season on a strong note—he had an impressive 28 tackles in the Ducks’ final six games.
Oregon regressed in 2004. The Ducks won just five games and missed a bowl game for the first time in the last eight years.
Todays #ThrowbackThursday we bring to you former #Ducks DT Haloti Ngata – @Haloti_Ngata92 is in his 13th year in the NFL and forever an Oregon Duck! #SuperBowlChamp #5TimeProBowl #CaliFLOCK 🦆🔥🦆🔥 pic.twitter.com/Wywqgaj6kA
— OregonGridiron (@OregonGridiron) June 14, 2018
Ngata served notice that he was one of the Pac-10’s best defensive linemen in 2005. He finished the year with 3.0 sacks and a conference-leading 61 combined tackles in 12 games for the Ducks.
According to Oregon’s official athletics website, Ngata became the first defensive lineman to earn team MVP honors in 18 years.
Behind Haloti Ngata’s dominant play on the defensive line, the Ducks’ 10-2 win-loss record represented their best showing in six years.
Regrettably, Haloti and the Ducks lost to the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2005 Holiday Bowl, 17-14.
Ngata had played his final down in the college football ranks. He finished his tenure with the Ducks with 151 tackles and seven blocked kicks—the most in Oregon football program history, per GoDucks.com.
Ngata earned First-Team All-Pac-10, Pac-10 Co-Defensive Player of the Year, and Consensus All-American honors in 2005. He also won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-10’s best defensive lineman that year.
As soon as Ngata wrapped up his college football career, he had to take care of some personal issues.
Haloti accompanied his mother to her dialysis treatment in Phoenix, AZ on New Year’s Day 2006. He had just finished his final season with the Ducks.
It was a turning point in Haloti’s football career—he asked his mother if it was all right for him to skip his senior season and declare for the 2006 NFL Draft.
Ofa replied in the affirmative. Sadly, she passed away just 12 days later. She was 44 years old.
Haloti learned about his mother’s passing while he was training for the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine.
Haloti was at a loss for words. He and his family members thought Ofa had made significant progress in her recovery. Worse, they thought she would leave the hospital sooner than later.
After Haloti and his relatives laid Ofa to rest on January 24, 2006, he resumed training for the NFL Scouting Combine. His uncle Haloti Moata stayed by his side while he was training in Houston, TX.
Through it all, football provided the emotional release that Haloti Ngata desperately needed.
“Football kept him going when his father died,” Moata told Sports Illustrated in the spring of 2006. “And it’s done the same for him through his mother’s death.”
Ngata gave credit to his Mormon faith and inner circle which included his girlfriend, Christina Adams, and high school football coach, Larry Wilson, for helping him survive his various ordeals prior to his playing days in the National Football League.
Haloti Ngata had been thrown some serious curveballs at this point in his life. Nevertheless, he would eventually enter the NFL ranks and become one of the best interior linemen in Baltimore Ravens franchise history.
Pro Football Career
The Baltimore Ravens made Haloti Ngata the 12th overall selection of the 2006 NFL Draft.
According to the Ravens’ official website, general manager Ozzie Newsome watched just 20 game clips of Ngata before he concluded that he was a worthy draft choice.
Newsome was so enamored with Ngata that he dealt a sixth-rounder to Baltimore’s AFC North rivals, the Cleveland Browns, so the Ravens could move to the 12th spot and select the 2005 Pac-10 Co-Defensive Player of the Year.
It was something out of the ordinary considering Newsome never liked surrendering draft choices to other teams, especially a division rival.
It was an unforgettable moment for the former Oregon Ducks defensive lineman, who had lost both of his parents in a span of just over three years.
“It’s a great moment for me, and I wish they could’ve been here to be a part of it,” Ngata said (via Sports Illustrated).
Crazy to see the differences in gear from ‘06 to now. I think I would’ve ran a faster 40😜😂
— Haloti Ngata (@Haloti_Ngata92) March 2, 2018
Although Ngata celebrated a life-changing milestone, local and national media harshly criticized his selection, per The Detroit News.
Worse, an NCAA rule forbade Ngata from attending Ravens OTAs because classes at the University of Oregon conflicted.
Consequently, the Ravens recorded their OTAs and sent them to Ngata and his high school football coach, Larry Wilson, in Salt Lake City, UT.
Determined to prove his naysayers wrong, Ngata put in the work and impressed Ravens management when they checked on him several weeks later. To their astonishment, Haloti was lightyears ahead of his fellow rookies in terms of strength and conditioning, per Paul.
Haloti crossed paths with Ravens seventh-year offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo during his rookie year in 2006.
Mulitalo, who is of Samoan descent, told the Detroit Free Press in 2015 that he and Ngata became inseparable because of their common Polynesian heritage and passion for reggae tunes. The two big men grew so close, they thought of each other as brothers.
Ngata was a frequent visitor at Mulitalo’s house and the latter’s children had to keep visitors away from the guest room because it was already reserved for Haloti.
Ngata and Mulitalo, whose combined playing weights nearly reached 700 pounds, eventually summoned the courage to learn how to snowboard several years later.
They pulled off the milestone during a charity event that former Miami Dolphins defensive end Doug Betters organized, per Birkett.
Haloti and the former Christina Adams got married in the summer of 2007. Ngata became a 23-year-old married man who was about to enter his second pro football season.
Haloti Ngata's career resume:
– 5x Pro Bowl
– 2x All-Pro 1st Team, 3x 2nd Team
– 2006 PFWA All-Rookie Team
– 2013 Super Bowl Championpic.twitter.com/whhSaRHRob
— Pro Sports Outlook (@PSO_Sports) October 23, 2022
There were five Mormons on the Ravens roster, including Ngata: tight end Todd Heap, defensive end Paul Kruger, offensive lineman David Hale, and quarterback John Beck. Tight end Dennis Pitta, another Mormon, also joined the team in 2010.
Haloti considered having teammates from the same denomination a huge advantage during the demanding NFL season.
“It’s just been awesome and great that I’m able to have four other guys on our team that are members of the church and being able to kind of lean on each other when we’re out there in practice or games,” Ngata told the Deseret News in the summer of 2010.
The Ravens were perennial Super Bowl contenders during Ngata’s first six pro football seasons— Baltimore averaged ten wins per season from 2006 to 2011. Unfortunately, the Ravens never made it past the AFC Championship Game during that six-season stretch.
Baltimore would finally get over the postseason hump in the 2012 NFL campaign.
The 2012 Baltimore Ravens roster featured the likes of Ngata, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, and Terrell Suggs.
That core helped the Ravens win ten games and reach Super Bowl XLVII against Colin Kaepernick’s San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, LA on February 3, 2013.
The Ravens got off to a fast start and led the 49ers 21-7 at halftime. Baltimore held off a San Francisco rally in the second half and eventually won 34-31.
The Ravens clinched their second Super Bowl title in their 17-year franchise history. Haloti Ngata, who sprained his knee in the third quarter, earned his first and only Super Bowl ring in his 13-year pro football career.
Ngata and his spouse, Christina, established the Haloti Ngata Foundation during his seventh season with the Ravens in 2012.
According to the foundation’s official website, its mission is to support “at-risk youth, their families, and communities affected by gang culture, and providing college-preparation resources to high school students as well as other charitable causes.”
The Ravens averaged nine wins per season from 2013 to 2014. They did not advance past the AFC Divisional Round during that two-year time frame.
My letter to Ravens Nation in the Baltimore Sun pic.twitter.com/mGxn6l9Dg2
— Haloti Ngata (@Haloti_Ngata92) March 15, 2015
The last of Ngata’s legendary nine-year tenure with the Ravens was mired in controversy. He served a four-game suspension for violating league rules on performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Ngata tested positive for Adderall, a drug that athletes take to improve performance, per the Detroit Free Press.
The Ravens eventually traded Ngata to the Detroit Lions for a fourth-round selection in the spring of 2015.
Haloti had a $16 million cap hit entering what would have been his tenth season in Baltimore. Unfortunately, he and the Ravens could not agree on a new deal.
Haloti Ngata ended his memorable nine-season tenure in Charm City with 25.5 sacks and 445 tackles.
Ngata was one of the most durable defensive linemen of his era. He missed just nine of his 135 career games while playing a physically-demanding position in Ravens black and purple.
The Lions made Ngata the successor of controversial defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who signed with the Miami Dolphins. He told the Detroit Free Press that he had no ill will toward the Ravens organization.
When Ngata entered his tenth pro football season, he had already racked up five Pro Bowl, two First-Team All-Pro, and three Second-Team All-Pro selections. He was, without a doubt, one of the best defensive linemen in the league.
However, Ngata was also a tremendous family man and an asset to the community. He gave credit to his high school football coach, Larry Wilson, for helping him become the man he is today.
Wilson was proud of his former protege.
“He’s a hell of a football player, but he’s so much of a better person,” Wilson told Paul in the spring of 2015. “He is so good in the community, so good in the locker room, a tremendous husband and father, and he’s still so humble.”
Ngata had 53 combined tackles, eight tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hits, and seven passes defensed in Lions Honolulu blue and silver.
Let’s goooooo 😜 pic.twitter.com/gt2E3PiytV
— Haloti Ngata (@Haloti_Ngata92) September 28, 2019
The Lions averaged nine wins per season during Ngata’s three-year tenure with the team from 2015 to 2017. Detroit never advanced past the NFC Wild Card Game with Jim Caldwell as the team’s head coach.
Haloti Ngata signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in the spring of 2018. He had 1.0 sack, 17 combined tackles, four tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, and one forced fumble in his lone year in Philadelphia.
The Eagles had a 9-7 win-loss record and advanced to the 2018 NFC Divisional Round against the New Orleans Saints. The latter prevailed, 20-14.
Ngata retired following the 2018 NFL season. He made his announcement via an Instagram post which showed him standing on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro and holding a banner that read, “I’m retiring from the NFL on top.”
Ngata finished his 13-year NFL career with 32.5 sacks, 515 combined tackles, 63 tackles for loss, 91 quarterback hits, five interceptions, 40 passes defensed, seven forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, and one touchdown off a fumble recovery.
Haloti signed a one-day contract with the Baltimore Ravens to officially retire as a member of the team on May 28, 2019.
— NFL Fan Blitz (@NFLFanBlitz) March 18, 2019
Haloti Ngata, the dedicated family man, wasn’t the type of player who hung out with his teammates at nightclubs during his 13-year pro football career.
“I’m kind of a homebody kind of guy,” Ngata told the Deseret News in 2010. “I like to stay home and spend time with my family.”
When the Ravens’ official website asked Ngata what his fondest memory in the NFL was, he didn’t hesitate.
“Breaking (Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback) Ben’s (Roethlisberger) nose,” Haloti said in the spring of 2019. “I didn’t do it on purpose but it kind of just happened.”
The unfortunate incident occurred during Ngata’s fifth pro football season in 2010. He inadvertently reached into Roethlisberger’s facemask and fractured his nose in the process.
— Kyle J. Andrews (@KyleJAndrews_) March 18, 2019
Ngata told The Lounge podcast (via BaltimoreRavens.com) that he never brought the up incident with Roethlisberger in subsequent years.
Haloti Ngata, his wife Christine, and their sons Solomon, Haloti Maximus, and Colt currently reside in the Park City, UT area.
Ngata returned to the rugby pitch—his first love—several months after he played his final down in the National Football League. He signed with Major League Rugby’s Utah Warriors in the spring of 2019.
Ngata announced his return to rugby in a similar way that he had announced his NFL retirement. He held a banner that read, “I’m going back to rugby” with the Warriors logo after again scaling Ensign Peak in Utah.
— Haloti Ngata (@Haloti_Ngata92) April 1, 2019
Haloti was excited at the prospect of bringing his family back to his old stomping grounds and playing for a team with a rowdy and loyal fan base.
When Ngata signed with the Warriors in 2019, he also expressed his dislike for Seattle’s sports teams.
“Whether it’s the Washington Huskies, the Seattle Seahawks, or now the Seattle Seawolves, I’ve never been fond of teams from Seattle,” Ngata told WarriorsRugby.com.
Haloti Ngata is a member of the University of Oregon Athletics Hall of Fame and the Baltimore Ravens Ring of Honor.
Ngata’s formative years in Utah helped him foster his love for the great outdoors. According to the Baltimore Ravens’ official website, Haloti’s hobbies include spearfishing and riding snowmobiles.