Riki Ellison is one of the best-known names in the National Football League. Riki Ellison is the football player from New Zealand and also is the first-ever New Zealander to play in the National Football League and to win the SuperBowl. 

Riki comes from a very sporting family. His father, grandfather, and uncle all were football players and were quite successful in their fields. Riki Ellison has a very strong connection with sports, which is very visible in his performance as the sportsman and on the field. 

As mentioned before, Ellison’s family definitely had some passion for sports. Tamati Ellison and Jacob Ellison, who played the Super Rugby are related to Riki. His grandfather, Edward Ellison played in the NZ Maori team and even got an award for the OBE from Great Britain due to his achievements in the Pacific region as a doctor. 

Thomas Ellison is another prominent figure from the Ellison’s family. Thomas was great uncle of Riki and he was in the first New Zealand rugby team to play in Great Britain, back in 1888. He also became the team player of the first New Zealand team to play in Australia, only 5 years later. 

As far as it seems the Ellison’s family continues to root into the sports and Riki’s son Rhett Ellison also plays and a tight end for the New York Giants, which is a great continuation for his father’s career and path. 

Early life

His life was not very easy, moreover, it could even be said that it was slightly complicated. He was born in Christchurch in New Zealand. When he was only eight he moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with his father. His life in Malaysia did not last for very long, as his parents got divorced soon after. His father wanted to become an economic advisor to the United Nations, and thus they lived in Malaysia for business purposes. After the divorce, Riki moved to the US, Los Angeles with his mother. His mother married Dennis Gray in the US and they altogether moved to the Beaver Creek Ranch in Arizona. 

After moving to the US, Riki Ellison started school in Tucson Arizona. It can be said that the career for Riki started in the US. Ellison was part of a USC Trojans team, which won two Rose Bowls as well as the national championship. After finishing school in Tucson, Ellison started university in Trojans and graduated from the university with an International Relations degree. The degree emphasized on Defense and Strategic Studies. 


The career for Riki took a successful start from the very beginning. He was accepted into the National Football League San Francisco 49ers. They chose Riki as their fifth-round pick in the 1983 NFL Draft. This is the short story of how he became the first-ever New Zealander player to play in the NFL. Not only was he the first-ever person from New Zealand to play in the National Football League, but he was the first Maori to play in Professional Football as well. 

Although Riki was definitely good at football and he showed himself off well on the probes, it was mostly Jerry Attaway, who convinced Ronnie Lott and Bill Walsh to admit him in the draft. Apparently, it was the good choice and the right decision they have made. Jerry was Riki’s conditioning coach at USC. 

The birth name of Riki is Riki Morgan Ellison. For the person who is named Riki and associates with the very soft and chill person, Ellison was a hard fellow as he was the American football quarterback. Riki played for the National Football League for ten seasons. Officially he was known as Riki Gray, due to the surname of his mother’s second husband, Dennis Gray. 

During the seven years in the 49ers, Ellison won seven Super Bowl, emphasizing his great talent and some skills, which he has inherited from his family. Due to his achievements in football and the National Football League, he stood alongside such names as Jesse Sapolu and Roger Craig, the running back of Pro Bowlers. 

The life of the sportsmen is never as simple as it seems, it is not only about running after the ball and kicking it afterward. There is a whole philosophy behind it and years of tireless practice as well as experience. The last season for Riki in the National Football League was back in 1989. The game was the last one for him, as he broke his arms in the final preseason game and was placed on the injured reserve list for the season. 

After the injury, Riki still played for three more seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders. In 2017 Ellison was nominated and awarded on the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame event. 

Other achievements 

Besides the great performance in the National Football League and some sporting skills that the footballer from New Zealand processed, he has arranged some campaigns for the young people who have a passion for sports. 

Some other sports besides football have also taken after Riki Ellison. In the gambling industry, for instance, there is the Texas Holdem Poker by Riki, which is shortly known as the Riki Poker. Some more gambling activities took after him, honoring Riki with some themed games and taking part in his organized campaigns. One of the most important and popular gambling activities in New Zealand are the various black jack games, that have also contributed to the campaigns and nonprofit organizations arranged by Riki Ellison in his home country. 

It was in the beginning of the century, in 2002, Riki Ellison launched the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, which was the non-profit organization. He decided to use his knowledge from the university and dedicate it to the young people in need of advocacy and focused on the development of the society in cooperation with technological advancement. 

Another great impact Riki had on youth was through the Youth Impact Program. He founded the organization in 2005. The program mainly focused on the disadvantaged and at-risk young boys in the US and the inner cities. The program had a partnership with the universities across the US, as well as with the Marine Corps and local National Football League team. Some of the school teachers were also actively involved in the program, trying to contribute to the well being of the young society. The Marine Corps was one of the most active parts of the program. They participated in the Youth Impact Program via providing students with leadership as well as the character development skills. They have conducted certain training and mentoring within the program’s framework. 

The Defender 

Although some people might know the history of Riki Ellison and have seen him playing for the National Football League, not so many people know about the movie The Defender. The movie is a documentary and depicts the life of Riki Ellison. The documentary shows the life of the boy, who got some really extraordinary skills in sports and was from a tiny town in New Zealand. This was very far away from the US. 

Not only did this boy manage to travel to the US, but he became one of the most prominent figures in the American football history and the key figure in the US missile defense. The documentary movie also touches the heritage of Riki, the Maori. It shows Riki as the Maori hero, and how the very young boy conquered the worldwide stage. 

The documentary movie also features the Super Bowls and tracks his whole career in the National Football League from the very beginning to the very end.