Stephen Paea
refer to caption
Paea with the Washington Redskins in 2015
No. 92, 90, 99, 55
Position:Defensive tackle
Personal information
Born: (1988-05-11) May 11, 1988 (age 34)
Auckland, New Zealand
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:295 lb (134 kg)
Career information
High school:Timpview (Provo, Utah)
College:Oregon State
NFL Draft:2011 / Round: 2 / Pick: 53
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Total tackles:129
Forced fumbles:3
Fumble recoveries:0
Pass deflections:6
Player stats at

Stephen Paea (/ˈp.ə/ PY; born May 11, 1988) is a New Zealand–born former American football defensive tackle. He played college football for Oregon State University, and was recognized as a consensus All-American. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and has also played for the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns, and Dallas Cowboys.

Early years

Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Paea grew up in Vavaʻu, Tonga, where he played high school rugby union and dreamt of playing at Number 8 for the All Blacks.[1] When he was 16, his family moved to the United States, initially to Lawrence, Kansas, where his cousin Chris Maumalanga was playing for the Kansas Jayhawks.[2] After a year, they moved to Provo, Utah, where Paea attended Timpview High School. Playing defensive line at only 240 pounds, he drew little attention by Division I schools, so he decided to enroll at nearby Snow College in Ephraim. Paea was also the state runner-up in the shot put, with a top-throw of 16.09 meters (52′08″) and a state qualifier in the discus with a best of 46.72 meters (153′03″).

After redshirting his initial year at Snow, he added more than 20 pounds to his frame and started the 2007 season as the No. 2 tackle on the depth chart. Finally drawing the attention of major schools, he transferred to Oregon State in mid-season after graduating from Snow with an associate degree in December 2007.[3]

College career

Paea (left) in a game vs. Louisville in 2010.
Paea (left) in a game vs. Louisville in 2010.

Paea attended Oregon State University, where he played for the Oregon State Beavers football team from 2008 to 2010. Making an immediate impact for the Beavers, Paea played in all 13 games, starting 12 of them, and recorded 41 tackles, 11 for a loss, and five quarterback sacks. He was selected to College Football News All-Sophomore Second Team and was an honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection.

As a junior, Paea registered a team-leading 8.5 tackles for loss and was co-leader for sacks with three. He was named All-Pacific-10 First Team and received the Morris Trophy for the best defensive lineman in the conference.

Paea was invited to the 2011 Senior Bowl, but tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee on the opening practice, causing him to miss the remainder of the event.[4]

Paea was a nominee for the Bill Hayward Athlete of the Year Award at the 2011 Oregon Sports Awards.

Professional career

At the 2011 NFL Combine, Paea set an official record of 49 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press.[5][6]

Pre-draft measurables
Height Weight Arm length Hand span 40-yard dash Bench press
6 ft 1+14 in
(1.86 m)
303 lb
(137 kg)
32+78 in
(0.84 m)
10 in
(0.25 m)
4.98 s 49 reps
All values from NFL Combine[7][8]

Chicago Bears

Paea with the Bears in 2014
Paea with the Bears in 2014

Paea was selected with the 53rd overall pick in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.[9] On July 29, 2011, he signed a 4-year contract with the Chicago Bears.

In a Sunday Night Football game on October 16 against the Minnesota Vikings, as well as his NFL debut, Paea sacked Donovan McNabb in the end zone for a safety, being the first Bears player to record a safety in his debut since at least 1970.[10]

In 2012, Paea and Nick Roach were awarded the Brian Piccolo Award.[11]

After the 2012 NFL Draft, Paea was reunited with Oregon State teammate Brandon Hardin.

During the preseason, Paea injured his left ankle during a workout[12] but started in the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.[13]

Washington Redskins

On March 10, 2015, Paea signed a four-year contract with the Washington Redskins, to play defensive end in their 3-4 defense.[14][15] On December 11, the team placed him on injured reserve with a Grade 2 toe sprain.[16] He appeared in 11 games (one start), registering 19 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He was released by the team on August 30, 2016.[17]

Cleveland Browns

On September 2, 2016, the Cleveland Browns signed Paea as a free agent to play defensive end and provide depth on the defensive line.[18] He appeared in 13 games, registering 12 tackles and a half-sack.

Dallas Cowboys

On March 10, 2017, Paea signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys, to help replace defensive tackle Terrell McClain who left in free agency. He also reunited with Rod Marinelli who was his defensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears.[19] Although he battled a degenerative knee condition, he had a strong showing in the preseason and earned the starting position at defensive tackle, which gave the team the confidence to release Cedric Thornton. The knee injury would not improve and kept him out of practice since the first week of the regular season. He still managed to start 4 games, posting 7 tackles (2 for loss) and one quarterback pressure. On October 11, he decided to inform the team that he would be retiring from the NFL.[20] He was placed on the injured reserve list on October 13.


  1. ^ "Fate switches dream of being All Black to NFL". The New Zealand Herald. October 29, 2014.
  2. ^ Stephen Paea: From Tonga to Oregon State[dead link]
  3. ^ "Beavs land athletic tackle from Snow College". December 18, 2007. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  4. ^ Mortensen, Chris (January 25, 2011). "Sources: DT Stephen Paea tears lateral meniscus in knee at Senior Bowl". ESPN.
  5. ^ "Former Ohio State Defensive Tackle Tommy Togiai Falls Short of NFL Combine Bench Press Record". March 30, 2021. Retrieved April 28, 2022.
  6. ^ "Stephen Paea Bench Press Video: Watch NFL Prospect Bust the Bench Press Record". February 28, 2011. Retrieved April 28, 2022.
  7. ^ "Stephen Paea Draft and Combine Prospect Profile". Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  8. ^ "Stephen Paea, Oregon State, DT, 2011 NFL Draft Scout, NCAA College Football". Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  9. ^ "2011 NFL Draft Listing". Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  10. ^ Hester's injury not considered serious. (October 17, 2011). Retrieved on 2012-02-28.
  11. ^ Biggs, Brad (April 24, 2012). "Bears LB Roach wins Piccolo Award". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  12. ^ "DT Stephen Paea hurts left ankle, latest Chicago Bears player hobbled - ESPN Chicago". August 12, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2012.
  13. ^ "Bears-Colts Inactives: Podlesh, Conte Will Play « CBS Chicago". Retrieved September 9, 2012.
  14. ^ Sessler, Marc. "Stephen Paea says he's headed for Redskins". Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  15. ^ Jones, Mike. "Redskins reach agreement with Bears defensive lineman Stephen Paea". Washington Post. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  16. ^ Jones, Mike (December 11, 2015). "Redskins place Stephen Paea on IR, pick up RB Pierre Thomas". Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  17. ^ Jones, Mike. "Redskins cut Perry Riley Jr. and Stephen Paea". Washington Post. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  18. ^ "Stephen Paea signs with Browns days after release by Redskins". September 2, 2016. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  19. ^ "DT Paea Agrees To Terms; Six-Year Vet Began Career Playing For Marinelli". March 10, 2017.
  20. ^ "Cowboys DT Stephen Paea informs team he's retiring". October 11, 2017.