Troy Polamalu
Troy Polamalu during the 2007 NFL season.
No. 43     Pittsburgh Steelers
Strong safety
Personal information
Date of birth: (1981-04-19) April 19, 1981 (age 39)
Place of birth: Garden Grove, California
High School: Winston (OR) Douglas
Height: 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) Weight: 207 lb (94 kg)
Career information
College: Southern California
NFL Draft: 2003 / Round: 1 / Pick: 16
Debuted in 2003 for the Pittsburgh Steelers
Career history
* Pittsburgh Steelers ( 2003–present)
Roster status: Active
Career highlights and awards
* 8× Pro Bowl (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013)
Career NFL statistics as of Week 16, 2013
Tackles     705
Quarterback sacks     12.0
Interceptions     33
Stats at
Stats at
Stats at

Troy Aumua Polamalu (/ˌpləˈmɑːl/; born April 19, 1981), born Troy Aumua, is an American football strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the University of Southern California (USC), and earned All-American honors. He was chosen by the Steelers in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He has been a member of two of the Steelers' Super Bowl championship teams, and has been selected for the Pro Bowl eight times, and was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and is considered by many[by whom?] as one of the best safeties to ever play the game.

Early yearsEdit

Polamalu was born in Garden Grove, California. He is of Samoan descent. He graduated from Douglas High School in Winston, Oregon. Despite playing in only four games during his senior season due to injury, he was named to the 1998 Super Prep All-Northwest team, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, and the All-Far West League second team. A two-way player, Polamalu rushed for 671 yards with nine touchdowns and had three interceptions.

Following his junior season, Polamalu was named to the All-State first team and was the All-Far West League Offensive Most Valuable Player for Douglas High, which achieved a 9-1 record. He rushed for 1,040 yards with 22 touchdowns and had 310 receiving yards. On defense, he made 65 tackles and had eight interceptions.

In high school, Polamalu also played baseball and basketball, where he also received all-state and all-league honors.[2]

College careerEdit

Polamalu received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Southern California, and played for the USC Trojans football team from 1999 to 2002. He spent his first year at USC as a backup where he became a hybrid player, playing at both safety positions. Despite being 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 blocking a punt. He became a full-time starter at the strong safety position the following year. He added three blocked punts and two forced fumbles during the season and also saw time on punt return duty.

In 2002, his last year at USC, Polamalu started in all but one game, giving him 36 total starts in his college career. Polamalu finished his career at USC as a three-year starter. In all, he made 278 tackles with 29 of them being behind the line of scrimmage, six interceptions, 13 pass deflections and four blocked punts.

Following his senior season in 2002, Polamalu was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American, after receiving first-team All-American honors from the Associated Press, the Football Writers Association of America, the Walter Camp Football Foundation and ESPN.[3] He was also a two-time first-team All-Pac-10 selection and was awarded the Most Inspirational Player Award by his teammates. Polamalu was named as a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's best defensive back.

Professional careerEdit

2003 NFL DraftEdit

In the last game of his college career the Orange Bowl, Polamalu injured his knee in pre-game warm-ups and had very limited action in the game that day. The injury also caused Polamalu to miss the Senior Bowl and 2003 NFL Combine.[4] Polamalu was able to perform for scouts at his USC pro day.

Troy Polamalu was drafted 16th overall in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Polamalu was actually the team's second option at safety, 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 to back out at the last minute and sign with the Arizona Cardinals instead.[5] The Steelers then drafted Polamalu.

The Chargers, who had the 15th overall pick, had a major need at safety to replace Rodney Harrison but instead passed on the opportunity to select Polamalu by trading down and getting Sammy Davis and Terrence Kiel. The Steelers 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 twenty-seventh spot to the sixteenth spot, originally held by the Chiefs. The Steelers traded away the ninety-second and two hundredth overall pick for the rights to switch first round picks. 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.[6] Polamalu signed a five-year, $8,275,000 contract.

Pre-draft measureables
Wt 40y 20ss 3-cone Vert BP Wonderlic
206 lb 4.3s X X 43" 29[7] 24*[8]
(* represents NFL Combine)

Pittsburgh SteelersEdit

File:Polamalu and clark SB43 parade.jpg

The Steelers use Polamalu in a high percentage of defensive plays in a wide variety of defensive roles. In only his third season (2005), he tied the NFL record for most sacks in a single game by a safety, achieving three sacks. The 2007 Pro Bowl was his third consecutive Pro Bowl appearance. He started at weak safety for the AFC, playing next to the Baltimore Ravens starting free safety Ed Reed. The rivalry they share based on their teams' divisional rivalry was evident, as the two battled for possession of an overthrown halfback pass from former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber, which Reed eventually caught. He made the AP NFL All-Pro Second Team in 2005, followed by being named to the First Team in 2006.

His first Super Bowl appearance was in Super Bowl XL in 2006, when the Pittsburgh Steelers gained the franchise's fifth Super Bowl win by defeating the Seattle Seahawks 21-10.

On July 23, 2007, before training camp, the Steelers gave Polamalu the biggest contract in team history, extending him through 2011. In an article on, Polamalu said, "I did not want to be a player who is jumping from team to team." Polamalu has repeatedly expressed his intent on staying with the Steelers. The four-year contract extension, worth just over $30 million with about $15 million in guarantees, made Polamalu one of the highest paid defensive backs in the league and the highest paid safety in the league, though this distinction was later taken by Bob Sanders on December 28, 2007 when he signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract with $20 million in guarantees.[9]

Polamalu was named a reserve to the 2008 Pro Bowl despite having no interceptions and only playing in 11 games during the 2007 season. Polamalu's injury-plagued 2007 season led him to partake in a California rehab program.[10] He suffered a hamstring injury late in his off-season workout, causing him to miss Pittsburgh's 2008 training camp.[11] He returned to practicing with the team days after the camp's conclusion, however.[12]

In the spring of 2008, reported that Polamalu's #43 jersey was the 15th-highest-selling jersey in the NFL. The only Pittsburgh Steeler to sell more was Ben Roethlisberger's #7 jersey, at the 10th spot.

Polamalu's 4th quarter interception return for a touchdown in the 2008 AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens helped the Steelers clinch a victory en route to another Super Bowl appearance. At Super Bowl XLIII, he only got two assisted tackles in the Steelers victory over the Cardinals, 27–23.

Polamalu was named to the 2009 Pro Bowl as the AFC's strong safety after being given a unanimous vote by five experts. He was joined by Steelers teammates James Harrison and James Farrior.

2009 SeasonEdit

In the 2009 season opener against the Tennessee Titans, Polamalu recorded six tackles and one interception before getting injured while trying to recover a blocked field goal. He sustained a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, and missed the next four games. He returned to play in the sixth week of the season against the Cleveland Browns. He later reinjured himself against the Bengals. In a Sports Illustrated survey of 296 active NFL players, Polamalu was ranked the 9th "dirtiest player" in the NFL.[13]

2010 SeasonEdit

In the 2010 season opener against the Atlanta Falcons, Polamalu made a possible game-saving interception with 1:45 left in the game. The Steelers went on to win in overtime. In week 13 of 2010, Polamalu made a game-changing play against the Baltimore Ravens forcing a fumble with a sack to set up a 9-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Redman with 2:51 left to give the Pittsburgh Steelers a 13-10 victory. In week 14 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Polamalu cut in front of intended receiver Terrell Owens to intercept Palmer's pass and return it 45 yards for a touchdown. Polamalu re-injured an ankle on this interception, but stayed in the game. He would record another interception later in the game. He missed the next 2 games with an ankle injury but returned for the last game of the season against the Cleveland Browns. In that game, he intercepted Colt McCoy before being pulled from the game when the Steelers were leading by over 30 points. It gave him his 7th interception of the year.

In the spring of 2010, reported that Polamalu's #43 jersey was the highest-selling jersey in the NFL among men and women.[14]

On January 31, 2011, Polamalu was named the AP Defensive Player of the Year after receiving 17 votes, beating out fellow USC Trojan and Packers linebacker Clay Matthews for the award, who received 15 votes.[15] He also won the NFL Alumni Player of the Year award, despite being beaten out for Defensive Back of the Year by Aqib Talib of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.[16]

Regular Season StatsEdit

Year Team GP GS Total Solo Ast Sck SFTY PDef Int Yds TDs Long
2003 PIT 16 0 38 30 8 2.0 - 4 - - - -
2004 PIT 16 16 96 67 29 1.0 0 15 5 58 1 26
2005 PIT 16 16 91 73 18 3.0 0 8 2 42 0 36
2006 PIT 13 13 77 58 19 1.0 - 10 3 51 0 49
2007 PIT 11 11 58 45 13 0.0 - 9 - - - 0
2008 PIT 16 16 73 54 19 0.0 - 17 7 59 0 23
2009 PIT 5 5 20 18 2 0.0 - 7 3 17 0 23
2010 PIT 14 14 63 49 14 1.0 0 11 7 101 1 45
2011 PIT 16 16 91 64 27 1.0 0 14 2 33 0 33
2012 PIT 7 7 34 29 5 1.0 - 3 1 1 0 1
2013 PIT 16 16 69 50 19 2.0 0 11 2 36 1 19
Totatl Total - - 710 537 173 12.0 0 109 32 398 3 49

Personal lifeEdit

Polamalu is of American Samoan descent and was raised by his mother's brother Salu Polamalu in rural Southern Oregon. Born Troy Aumua, he petitioned in 2007 to change his legal name to his mother's maiden name of Polamalu, which he had been using for the previous fifteen years.[18] Polamalu's uncle Kennedy Polamalu was the Jacksonville Jaguars running backs coach for five years, during which time the Jaguars defeated Polamalu's Steelers in four of their five meetings, and is currently the running backs coach for UCLA. Another uncle, Aoatoa Polamalu, played nose tackle at Penn State from 1984–1988.[19] His cousin Joe Polamalu played linebacker for Oregon State University and another cousin Miaka Polamalu currently plays fullback for the United States Naval Academy. Another cousin Leie Sualua played at University of Oregon and Nicky Sualua at Ohio State then to the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals.

Polamalu is married to Theodora Holmes and has two sons: Paisios, born on October 31, 2008, and Ephraim, born September 16, 2010.[20][21] Theodora is the sister of NFL player and USC Trojans alumnus Alex Holmes.[22] He resides with his family in Pittsburgh during the football season and San Diego, California during the off-season.[23]

Polamalu's favorite pastimes include surfing, growing flowers, making furniture and playing the piano.[22][24]

Despite Polamalu's hard-hitting style on the gridiron, he is known off the field as a soft-spoken family man.[25]

Polamalu is well read in the history and theology of early Christianity, which ultimately led both him and his wife to convert to Orthodox Christianity in 2007. He makes the Sign of the Cross after every play. Among his spiritual activities was a 2007 pilgrimage to Orthodox Christian sites in Greece and Turkey.[26] 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, including not watching football games at home. He prays after each play and on the sidelines.[27] His sons are both named after well-known Orthodox Christian saints: Saint Paisios the Great of Egypt and Saint Ephraim the Syrian.

Polamalu and his wife founded the Harry Panos Fund to honor Theodora's grandfather, who served in World War II.[28]

During the 2011 NFL lockout, Polamalu utilized his time away from the field to return to the University of Southern California to complete his college education. On May 13, 2011, he graduated from USC with a bachelor's degree in history.[29] On his personal website he explained, "I decided to finish what I started and walked that stage today not only because it was very important to me personally, but because I want to emphasize the importance of education, and that nothing should supersede it."[30] Teammate Ben Roethlisberger followed in Polamalu's footsteps the following offseason and finished his degree as well.[31]


Polamalu's hair is one of his most distinguishing characteristics, allowing him to be easily spotted on the field. In the CBS Playoffs Pre-game Show, Polamalu said the last time he had gotten a haircut was in 2000 at USC[25] when a coach told him he needed one. On November 9, 2010, while appearing on Mike and Mike in the Morning, Polamalu said he had his most recent haircut seven or eight years prior.

In an October 15, 2006 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Chiefs' running back Larry Johnson pulled Polamalu down by the hair in order to tackle him. Although tackling a player by his hair is legal and does not alone constitute unnecessary roughness,[32] Johnson was penalized for rising to his feet while retaining grasp of Polamalu's hair (pulling him up in the process).

Polamalu has a contract with Head & Shoulders shampoo, and has starred in five commercials for the product. In August 2010, P&G paid for a million-dollar insurance policy from Lloyd's of London for Polamalu's hair.[33] Polamalu's hair is 32 inches long.

In the mediaEdit

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 Fox Sports announcer Dick Stockton's mispronunciation of Polamalu's name.[34]

Polamalu is featured on the cover of the Scholastic children's book National Football League Megastars which profiles Polamalu and 14 other NFL stars.

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.[35] 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 managers. Then, instead of giving the kid his own jersey, he rips the shirt off the brand manager he had tackled and tossed it to the kid. Greene, who like Polamalu lives a very quiet life off the field in contrast to his on-field play, liked the commercial and gave his stamp of approval.[36]

He is on the cover of Madden NFL 10 with Larry Fitzgerald.[37][38]

On Eminem's 2010 album Recovery, the hidden track "Untitled" references Polamalu and his hair.

He had a cameo in the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises as a member of the Gotham Rogues.


  1. "Polamalu AFC Defensive Player of the Week". January 4, 2012. Archived from the original on January 4, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  3. 2011 NCAA Football Records Book, Award Winners, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Indianapolis, Indiana, p. 11 (2011). Retrieved June 23, 2012.
  4. " » News » Stories » April 17, 2003: Kirwan's NFL Draft Analysis By Position: Safeties".
  5. Bouchette, Ed (2003-11-06). "". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  6. Bouchette, Ed (2003-04-27). "Steelers trade for higher first-round pick, select Southern California defensive back". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  7. "Pittsburgh Steelers by 900 FBL".
  8. "Troy Polamalu, SS, Southern Cal - 2003 NFL Draft Scout Profile, Powered by The SportsXchange".
  9. "ESPN - Steelers lock up Polamalu through 2567 season - NFL".
  10. Troy Polamalu (2008). NFLTA: Polamalu's rehab. NFL Films.
  11. Bouchette, Ed (2008-07-29). "Steelers Training Camp: Misery remains Polamalu's company". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
  12. Harris, John (2008-08-21). "Polamalu hits higher gear". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 2008-08-21.
  13. "Dirtiest NFL player: Steelers' Ward". Sports Illustrated. 2009-11-04. Retrieved 2011-09-10.
  14. [1], additional text.
  15. White, R.J. (2011-01-31). "Troy Polamalu Named NFL's Defensive Player of Year". Retrieved 2011-01-31.
  16. "NFL Alumni Names Winners of 2010 Player of the Year Awards". NFL Alumni. 2011-02-05. Retrieved 2011-02-09.
  17. "Troy Polamalu". Pittsburgh Steelers. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  18. "Polamalu Wants To Change Name". Retrieved 2008-05-31.
  19. "Football Opens Against Penn State In Kickoff Classic XVIII". USC Sports Information. 2000-08-21. Retrieved 2008-04-09.
  20. Beaver County Times Dad-to-be Polamalu may miss Monday's game
  21. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Steelers Update: Polamalu will play vs. Redskins after birth of first child Friday
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Steelers' Polamalu never out of position _ mostly because he does not have one". 2006-01-19. Retrieved 2008-05-31.
  23. Dan Jones (July 4, 2009). "Troy Polamalu still feels at home". The News-Review.
  24. "Steelers' Troy Polamalu: The Samoan Headhunter". Retrieved 2008-11-09.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Orsborn, Tom (2006-02-02). "Samoan stars play big roles in big game". San Antonio Express Metro Edition.
  26. O'Brien, Jim (2007-04-18). "Troy Polamalu goes on holy pilgrimage".
  27. "In faith and football, Polamalu is without equal".
  28. "Steelers stars lend helping hand to Pittsburghers".
  29. "Troy Polamalu graduates from USC". 14 May 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  30. "Troy Polamalu's Student of the Year". 13 May 2011.’s-student-of-the-year-2/. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  31. "Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger graduates at 30, wins ‘Super Bowl in life’". The Star (Toronto).
  32. "NFL player Troy Polamalu gets $1m hair insurance". BBC News. 1 September 2010. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
  33. Troy Polamalu has hair insured, Associated Press report. August 30, 2010
  34. "Musicians now a Troy band with 'Puhlahmahlu' - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review".
  35. "".
  36. "".
  37. Madden Curse? Troy Polamalu of Pittsburgh Steelers and Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona Cardinals on Madden NFL cover - ESPN
  38. Lee, Kevin (2009-04-27). "Fitzgerald & Polamalu On Madden NFL 2010 Cover". GamerCenterOnline. Retrieved 2009-04-27.

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