Long after the fall of the steel curtain, Troy Polamalu continues to instill fear in the hearts of opposing offenses week in and week out. The ruthlessly strong safety has been a perfect fit on a Pittsburgh football team that features a long-standing history of ranking among the league leaders on defense. For the Steelers, the old adage “defense wins championships” could not be more true, and Polamalu has been the anchor for a Steeler defense that has gone on to win two championships in the past 10 years.
Born on April 19, 1981 in Garden Grove, California, Troy Polamalu, born Troy Aumua, is the youngest of Suila Polamalu’s five children. Divorced shortly after Troy’s birth, Suila was tasked with raising all five children on her own. The role of a single parent soon became overwhelming and her older children began to get in trouble with the law. Fearing Troy would also head down the wrong path, Suila agreed to allow him to live with his Uncle in Tenmile, Oregon.
While in Oregon, Polamalu attended Douglas High School where he played basketball, football, and baseball. There was no doubt, even as early as age 14, he possessed a level of athleticism which far exceeded most of his teammates. His talent did not go unnoticed, and in 1999, Polamalu received a full athletic scholarship to play for the Trojans at the University of Southern California. After spending almost four years with the Trojans and receiving numerous awards for his play at USC, he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 2003 NFL draft.
To say it did not take long for the young safety to make an impact would be a vast understatement. Only a year after being drafted, Polamalu was voted into his first Pro Bowl. Two years after that, he hoisted the Vince Lombardi trophy into the air, an achievement many great players are never able to obtain. Now a seasoned veteran, Polamalu is being compared to some of the greatest safeties to have ever played the game. This is not surprising when considering his resume features two league championships, five all-pro selections, and seven trips to the Pro Bowl.
However, despite being one of the most tenacious players on the field, outside of football, Polamalu is as gentle as they come. Polamalu enjoys a quiet life and strives to distance himself from the glamorous lifestyle which often accompanies being a professional athlete. He realizes there is a life outside of football, stating, “I take pride in my life-my wife, my family. I try my best not to have football define the person that I am.”
Joshua Shapiro is a second-year student majoring in English and education. He can be reached at JS762110@wcupa.edu.