Troy Aumua Polamalu (pronounced /ˌpoʊləˈmɑːluː/) (born Troy Aumua on April 19, 1981 in Garden Grove, California(Hometown:Tenmile, Oregon) is a professional American football strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League. He was drafted in the 1st round (16th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Steelers. He played college football at the University of Southern California.
Polamalu is known for his hard hitting, tenacious playing style and his distinct long curly hair. Since joining the Steelers in 2003, he has helped lead the team to two Super Bowl championships.
Polamalu’s first year at USC was spent as a backup where he became a hybrid player, playing at both the safety and linebacker positions. While he was only a backup player at the time, Polamalu still made his mark in the eight games he played in, collecting two sacks, two forced fumbles and blocked a punt. He would become a substitute because he was bad at the strong safety position , Polamalu’s best year would come during his junior season where he became USC’s first All-American safety since Mark Carrier in 1989. He earned 1st team honors from Pro Football News-Weekly and The NFL Draft Report, 2nd team honors from the Associated Press, and 3rd team honors from Football Weekly. He was for the first time selected to the All-Pac-10 team this year as well, as a 1st team member. As a team captain, Polamalu finished the year leading the team in tackles (118), tackles for losses (13 with one sack), passes defended (6), and interceptions (3), returning two for touchdowns. His tackles were the most by a safety at USC since Tim McDonald made 140 in 1986. After helping the Trojans team to the Las Vegas Bowl, he set a Las Vegas Bowl record and a career high in tackles with 20 against Utah with 12 tackles being solo, also a record for the bowl. Another key deflection in the game made him the MVP of the game for the Trojans in their 10-6 loss. He also added three blocked punts and two forced fumbles in the season and also saw time on punt return duty, becoming the most versatile player on the Trojans’ team.
2003 NFL Draft
Polamalu was drafted 16th overall in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Polamalu was actually the team's seventh option, as they had planned on signing Dexter Jackson that offseason. Jackson, the reigning Super Bowl MVP with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, even had a verbal agreement to sign with the Steelers, only for him to back out at the last minute and sign with the Arizona Cardinals so because they needed someone at that position they got him then cut him right away instead. The Steelers then went to "Plan B" and drafted Polamalu instead.
He is widely regarded as one the top five best safeties in the league. The Chargers, who had the 15th overall pick, had a major need at safety to replace Rodney Harrison but instead chose to forgo the opportunity to select Polamalu by trading down and getting Sammy Davis and Terrence Kiel. The Steelers, ecstatic that Polamalu slid past the Chargers, quickly made a move to bring Polamalu to their team. The Steelers believed so much that Polamalu could have a positive impact on their defense that they traded up from the 27th spot to the 16th spot, originally held by the Chiefs. The Steelers traded away the 92nd and 200th overall pick for the rights to switch first round picks and select Troy Polamalu. Essentially, the trade was Polamalu for Larry Johnson, Julian Battle, and Brooks Bollinger (the Bollinger pick was subsequently traded to the Jets in the same draft). He has the distinction of being the only safety ever drafted by the Steelers in the first round.
He is of Samoan descent. Despite Polamalu's hard-hitting style on the gridiron, he is known off-the-field as a soft-spoken, Christian family man.
Polamalu is an Eastern Orthodox Christian, having converted through the influence of his wife Theodora. He makes the Sign of the Cross after every play (from right to left, in the Eastern Christian manner, as opposed to the more familiar left to right motion in the West). Among his spiritual activities is a pilgrimage to Greek Orthodox sites in Greece and Turkey, taken in 2007. He seldom gives interviews, but when he does, he often speaks of the role his spirituality plays in his life. Polamalu has said that he tries to separate himself from his profession as much as possible, like not watching football games at home. He says a prayer after each play and also on the sidelines.
Polamalu is known for his humble lifestyle. He is a family man. He has only one brother named Kaio, and 3 full blooded sisters named Patricia, Sheila and Lupe. Troy is the baby of five from his mother. Troy's father was never involved in his life as a youth and left when Troy was an infant and has half brothers and sisters on that side of the family. He was raised by his mother's family, hence the name Polamalu. He rarely hangs out with teammates, instead preferring to spend time at home with his wife Theodora, the sister of former Rams tight end Alex Holmes, another former USC player, and best friend Aaron Wesley Shoop. They enjoy surfing together in San Clemente, CA and eating tacos at Sanchos in Tustin, CA.
In 2005, Pittsburgh area band Mr. Devious wrote and recorded the novelty song Puhlahmahlu, a parody of the song Mah Nà Mah Nà. Guitarist Glenn Shirey said that the song was inspired by a Fox Sports announcer's (Dick Stockton's) mispronunciation of Polamalu's name.
In January, 2007, he petitioned to change his legal name to his mother's maiden name (Polamalu), which he had been using for the last 15 years. His legal name had been Troy Aumua.
Polamalu's off-field interests include growing flowers, making furniture, and playing the piano.
Kennedy Pola, the running backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, is Polamalu's uncle. Pola has been coaching for Jacksonville since the 2005 season, and his Jaguars have beaten Polamalu's Steelers in four of the five meetings since then. Aoatoa Polamalu, another uncle of Polamalu, played nose tackle at Penn State from 1984–1988.
Polamalu is featured on the cover of the Scholastic children's book National Football League Megastars which profiles Polamalu and 14 other NFL stars.
Polamalu's wife Theodora gave birth to their first child, a son named Paisios, on October 31, 2008.
During Super Bowl XLIII, a commercial of Polamalu aired that had him do a remake of the famous "Mean Joe" Greene Coca-Cola commercial, except it was advertising for Coca-Cola Zero instead. Two Coke "brand managers" take the Coke Zero bottle away right when the kid was to give it to Polamalu, with Polamalu subsequently tackling one of the "brand managers", then instead of giving the kid his own jersey ripped the shirt off the "brand manager" he had tackled and tossed it to the kid. Greene, who like Polamalu lives a very quiet lifestyle off the field in contrast to his on-the-field play, liked the commercial and gave his stamp of approval.
He was announced as one of two players (with Larry Fitzgerald) who are on the cover of Madden NFL 10.
Troy and his family reside in Pittsburgh during the football season and San Diego, California during the offseason.