The position of Safety in football is all about athleticism, knowledge of the game and impeccable instincts. And if those are the criteria for what usually makes a great safety, there is one guy who sticks out in most people’s minds as one of the best safeties in the last decade, and that is Troy Polamalu. While Polamalu wasn’t the biggest man on the field, his grit, determination and unmatched pursuit abilities made his game larger than life. He retired before last season, but there is no doubt in my mind that he could start for many different teams today.
In high school, he was an all-state caliber player in basketball and baseball in addition to football, but football was his best sport. He was a two way player in high school, playing both running back and safety. After graduating, he was given a scholarship to play safety and linebacker for the USC Trojans.
Throughout his 4 years, he garnered a reputation for being a big time playmaker. Whether this was a brilliant play on the ball or a thunderous hit after a fierce pursuit, Polamalu was about as cerebral as they come. It was this fantastic instinct and playmaking ability that got Polamalu drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2003 NFL Draft.
His first year he didn’t start any games, but by his sophomore season, Polamalu showed he was among the best young defensive players in the world. He had 96 tackles (most of his career) to go along with 5 interceptions. He continued to have fairly similar seasons throughout his career and was a model for consistency and being one of the best run support safeties the NFL has ever seen.
He was recognized for his great play throughout his career by being named to eight Pro Bowls and five All Pro teams and was also named the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He was not only a great individual player, but was an undisputed team leader on the Steelers and anchored their defense to two Super Bowl wins. He also helped the Steelers be one of the most consistent and successful teams of the 2000s.
And while his football career was amazing and hall of fame worthy, we couldn’t do an article on Polamalu without talking about his legendary hair. His hair makes him easy to spot on the field and is one of the best haircuts in sports history. He also has made money off of this hair as he has appeared in head and shoulders commercials and even has a million dollar insurance policy on his hair, paid for by P and G.
While his hair is what some know him by, football fans will never forget his tenacity and amazing play on the field. And as a Raven’s fan, I know firsthand how impactful this guy can be on the field as the Raven’s played him twice a year, and even though he was on a team I hate, I have to respect the man for his amazing play and great attitude.