As the end of the year approaches, students live in a constant state of both apprehension and anticipation. Apprehension because the finale of the school year means the dreaded finals- Tests stacked with random blots of information from the nine months previous. Anticipation because of summer- that lovely time of the year where a student can live almost care-free with no school left to do. However, just because school has finished does not mean guaranteed relaxation, nor should it. We have learned a lot through the year, but one last lesson to take to the summer comes from former Pittsburgh Steelers safety, Troy Polamalu.
Born April 19, 1981, the kid who eventually became one of the NFL’s most feared safeties grew up in California. However, at the age of eight years old, he moved in with his aunt and uncle in the state of Oregon. This transition would prove pivotal to the man’s football career. At Douglas High School in Winston Oregon, Polamalu played basketball and baseball, but the gridiron is where he truly shone. In his junior year, he recorded 65 tackles and 8 interceptions. His senior year was cut short by injury, but despite only playing in four games, the impact he had on the field led him to the All-Northwest Team and All-Far West Team.
Because of his achievements on the football field, the University of Southern California (USC) offered him a full-ride athletic scholarship. Since USC’s mascot is the Trojan and the capital city of the ancient Trojans was Troy, Polamalu used to say “I believe God named me Troy for a reason. I was born to come here.” Regardless of divine intervention, given the opportunity to play, Polamalu dominated his opponents like an ancient warrior. As a second-string freshman, Polamalu still recorded 12 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a blocked punt. The next year, Polamalu played his sophomore year as a starter and never looked back. Over his entire college career, Polamalu record over 250 tackles, almost 30 tackles for a loss, intercepted six passes, and blocked four punts. These stats eventually gained the notice of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers who drafted him in the first round of the 2003 NFL draft.
As a rookie, Polamalu ran a 4.34 40-yard dash and bench-pressed 225 pounds a whopping 29 times. The combination of strength and speed was almost unseen before in a 5’10” safety. While Polamalu did not take the starting job in his rookie season, he did get a healthy amount of playing time and even appeared in all 16 games. His second season saw him earn the starting job and he never lost it, starting every year for the rest of his career.
During his career, Polamalu developed a skill known as the Superman Tackle. Combining his freakish athletic ability with his uncanny knack for reading the opponent, Polamalu would run up to the line and jump over the entire offensive line before taking down the quarterback without even touching the ground. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OTRgo1Y1u8 an example of the flying tackle can be seen at the link).
Besides the Superman Tackle, Polamalu quickly made a name for himself as the hardest hitting safety in the NFL. Utilizing his smaller stature, Polamalu would nail opponents at the waist or lower, sending them straight to the turf (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAKv8zaCP18). However, hispersonality totally throws people off guard. Polamalu, while one of the hardest hitters in the history of the NFL, is arguably the softest-spoken, kindest person anyone will ever meet.
In sharp contrast to players such as Terrell Owens or Randy Moss, Polamalu very seldom acted up or made the game about himself. Most plays, he would just get up and set himself up for the next one, never showboating, never screaming excitedly. Additionally, he very rarely had an interview. When he did, he always spoke with deliberation, making sure each word counted, never wasting breath. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dY1K-xQAONA)
Entering into summer break, the temptation to slack off is real. Don’t do it, though. Keep fighting through life. One of the Devil’s greatest weapons is apathy. Apathy isn’t disobedience or sin necessarily, it’s just not caring anymore and slacking off because one can. This summer, follow Polamalu’s footsteps. Live passionately and fiercely for God and genuinely love those around you. Grow in the relationship, follow Christ, and act as the Lion and the Lamb.