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Leroy Sisnett
AUCKLAND, New Zealand
  Hall Of Fame  


International Sports Specialists, Pty.Ltd. (ISSI) was founded in February 1989 based upon the dream of a New Zealander by the name of George O'Scanlon. George fell in love with athletics, especially American football (Gridiron), as a young man growing up in his native country of New Zealand.

His desire over the years has been to promote gridiron not only to the people of New Zealand, but also to Australia where he lived for many years. Over the past twelve years, ISSI has had the opportunity to share the land down under with over 10,000 individuals from across the United States.

From its first Down Under Bowl in 1989 when four states each produced a team to 2000 when ISSI sent fifty six state all-star teams from 48 different states to participate, the goal has been the same; to use the common language of sport to bridge the continents.

Over the years ISSI, its coaches and athletes have afforded the people of Australia and New Zealand hundreds of football clinics and instructional workshops to assist them in building their football programs. In turn many wonderful acquaintances and experiences for our U.S. athletes have been made with the Australians and New Zealanders.

New Zealand has over the last three years attended the Down Under Bowl and has sent two Senior Mens "HAKA" National Teams as well as a HAKA Colts team in 2001.

Down Under Bowl is an annual event on the NZAFA Calendar and one that will ensure the development of American Football in New Zealand at the youth level.

Monday, February 9
All David Dixon needed was a team willing to be patient with him and plug him in at the right spot. After being switched from defense to offense and finding a coach who was willing to stick with his development, Dixon has turned into a solid right guard on the Vikings’ offensive line.

He could be entering the final year or years of his career, but Dixon was solid in 2003 and is expected to start again in 2004.

2003: Started all 16 games for the first time since 2000, and helped pave the way for the league’s top offense. Has 118 career starts at guard, second to Randall McDaniel’s 188 record in team history.

2002: Finished the season as the third-ranked guard in team history for career starts (103). Started 15 games, missing the Atlanta game (12/1) with a hip flexor. A contributing factor in Michael Bennett’s 1,296 yards rushing.

2001: From his right guard position, Dixon had to become accustomed to a new starting right tackle in Chris Liwienski after the death of Korey Stringer. Missed two starts.

2000: Flanked a new starting center and left guard. Started all 16 regular-season games and both playoff games while protecting first-year starter Daunte Culpepper and helping Robert Smith to a 1,500-yard season.

1999: Had a perfect attendance record in 1999, starting all 18 games.

1998: Was one of three offensive linemen to start all 16 regular-season games and the two playoff games. Was part of the offensive continuity that led the Vikings deep into the playoffs.

1997: Became the full-time starter at right guard, although he missed two games with a neck injury.

1996: Started six games at guard.

1995: While Chris Hinton was missing time with an injury, Dixon was working his way into the starting lineup for six games.

1994: Started a string of stability for Dixon. Re-signed before training camp and made the 53-man roster, although he wasn’t active for every game.

1993: Released by Minnesota in training camp and played defensive tackle for the Cowboys on their practice squad.

1992: Signed to Minnesota’s practice squad in October after being released by New England in the preseason.

College: Was a starting defensive tackle at Arizona State in 1991 after transferring from Ricks College in Idaho. Was a former rugby player in New Zealand that learned American football in college.

Personal: Became a U.S. citizen in 1999.

Monday, February 9
When Mark was a student at Auckland's Penrose High School he was recognised as having the potential to become an athlete in the mould of Olympian Les Mills. That was quite a compliment given that Mills was, at that time, one of the leading field athletes in New Zealand. Mark did not disappoint! New Zealand born, his 6' 7" athletic frame enabled him to excel at most sports.

At 12 Mark was the Auckland shot put and discus Champion. At age 14 he was the New Zealand Champion and went on to become the Australasian shot put champion.

In 1983 while playing for the Metro Lions in the local Auckland Gridiron competition Mark was noticed by a talent scout from Utah State University. In 1984 Mark was offered a football scholarship to attend The University of Hawaii, where he played four years of a 5 year scholarship.

This was an amazing opportunity for a young Kiwi. No one prior and few since had been chosen to attend a college to play american football. Mark was to learn how unprepared he was for this move.

Mark played with the University of Hawaii Warriors from 1984 to 1988 when he graduated with a BA in Sociology. During this period, the giant Kiwi offensive lineman, came to the attention of scouts from the NFL, the elite American football league. On graduation Mark was signed by the Detroit Lions (1990-1992) and subsequently played with the San Diego Chargers (1992-1994). From 1992-1994 Mark played with the Sacramento Surge in the newly established World Football League, played in the European winter.

He was selected to the 'Warrior Club" and selected to "all star" teams three times during his professional university football career from 1984-1988. The "Warriors Club" is voted by peers and reflects true commitment and contribution - a real honour to achieve even once Mark achieved this honour on two occassions

Monday, September 13
1983 REMEMBERED: Riki Ellison   
By Lisa Zimmerman

When it comes to finding someone who knows more than his fair share about defense, Riki Ellison is your man. And we're not just talking DE-fense, but de-FENSE.

The DE-fense part started when the San Francisco 49ers selected the former USC linebacker with their fifth-round pick in the 1983 NFL Draft, and nobody was more surprised than Ellison himself.

"I didn't think I was going to play professional football," he said. "I had flunked all the physicals because I had had four knee surgeries. Then the day of the draft, I see my name go across the TV. I was shocked and pretty excited. I think Jerry Attaway, my conditioning coach at USC and (teammate) Ronnie Lott had convinced Bill Walsh to take a shot at me."

Ellison went on to win three Super Bowls during his six years with the 49ers. He was part of a 1983 draft class that also included a pair of future Pro Bowlers, running back Roger Craig and center/guard Jesse Sapolu. They joined an already impressive roster that produced a storied period in the organization's history.

"Walsh looked for quickness, poise, intelligence," Ellison recalled. "And the personalities that were brought together in that locker room were amazing. These guys were characters, they had heart and Bill Walsh was able to mix that all together and make it work."

Ellison's path to the NFL was a unique one. He was born in New Zealand and is part Maori (the native people of that country) on his father's side. In fact, his uncle was chief of the Ngai Tahu (NAH-hee TAH-who) tribe on the South Island and a cousin still sits on the governing board.

At the age of eight, Ellison moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for a year with his father, Dan, who at the time was an economics professor and who went on to become an economic advisor to the United Nations.

Shortly thereafter, Riki's parents divorced and he relocated with his mother to Los Angeles, where she remarried. It was that relationship that introduced Ellison to football.

"My stepfather Dennis Gray took me to a USC football game in 1972," he explained. "I went home and wrote on a piece of paper that I was going to start for USC, beat UCLA, Notre Dame, go to the Rose Bowl, win a national championship and marry a cheerleader. And I did all of it."

In 1992, after success in both college and the NFL (where he played his final three seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders), Ellison decided it was time to move on and relocated his family to his native New Zealand. Always one to look for new opportunities, he brought American football there via a college bowl game he created called the Haka Bowl. Ellison contacted ESPN and developed the event, which showcased schools from the Pac-10 and the WAC. After a few years, however, Ellison decided it was time to return to the United States.

Riki Ellison made it his duty to defend on and off the field.   
This brings us to de-FENSE. Ellison became committed to the cause of missile defense in college when he became acquainted with Dr. Bill Van Cleave, then a professor of international relations at USC. Dr. Van Cleave also was part of the U.S. delegation to the SALT talks and a senior advisor and defense-policy coordinator to Ronald Reagan. Ellison found himself captivated by the subject and took internships with defense and aerospace companies throughout his years with the 49ers. Upon leaving the NFL, he made it his full-time career.

"I never intended to play football," he said. "Missile defense is something I've been involved with for more than 20 years. It's my life's work."

Ellison is an advocate for building a missile defense system that would protect the United States from all foreign threats. In 2002, he founded the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (, a non-profit coalition based in Washington, D.C. In conjunction with a wide variety of other groups across all areas of the private and public sectors, he works to educate people on the dangers that exist -- especially in the post-September 11 environment.

"This is a bi-partisan thing. It's a non-offensive weapons system," he explained. "There are countries in this world that have weapons of mass destruction and have the means to send them into our country. We don't have anything to stop that from happening. There is a real threat out there against our country, our communities and our people. We have to do something about it."

In addition, Ellison made a foray back into football in 2001-2002, coaching at T.C. Williams High School, the Virginia school made famous by the movie, Remember the Titans. While he was able to apply and teach many of the techniques and vast experience he acquired during his playing days, his primary goal was off-the-field success.

"I wasn't coaching football for football," he said. "I coached because it was a means for me to give back to my community. We had a foundation and we raised over $350,000 in just two years. That money did not go toward football; it went toward tutors, feeding the kids. I was in there to help the kids out."

An impact player during his NFL days, Ellison has continued to make a difference in everything he has tackled since.


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